NEW YORK — Compaq Computer stepped to the top of desktop computing on Tuesday with the Deskpro 386, a machine that the company's chief executive called "the most powerful personal computer in the world."
Analysts said they were impressed by the competitive list price of the state-of-the-art machine: $6,499 or $8,799, depending on the amount of hard-disk memory.
Houston-based Compaq is the first major personal computer maker to announce a PC based on Intel's 80386 microprocessor, a tiny silicon chip that rivals the power of minicomputers and small mainframes.
"It's going to restore growth and vibrancy to an industry in need of a new development," Compaq Chairman Ben Rosen said.
Shipments to dealers began Saturday, Rod Canion, Compaq's president and chief executive, said in an interview.
Analysts predicted that Compaq would probably sell the Deskpro 386 aggressively in hopes of gaining a grip on customers before International Business Machines introduces its computer based on the new Intel chip.
"Compaq's in a race. They have to get their installed base as large as possible. They'll go for market share, not profitability," predicted Donald Heeter, an analyst for J. C. Bradford & Co. of Nashville, Tenn. Heeter said he does not expect IBM to announce an 80386-based computer until late 1987 at the earliest. "There is a risk that if IBM is late to the market, they'll lose a lot of market share," he said.
However, analyst Joel Levy of Amy Wohl & Associates said he thinks that IBM has nothing to be worried about. He said IBM's marketing power--and the threat that it might lock up customers by making its own computer incompatible with the others--would ensure its dominance of the 80386-based market.
Canion said Compaq is counting on the quality of its computer and its strong dealer network to give it a big share of the new marketplace. Compaq is second only to IBM in sales of high-powered personal computers and has more than 3,000 dealers worldwide.
The Deskpro 386 can run most personal computer software two to three times faster than AT-class machines, Compaq said. More important, it is fully compatible with previous generations of PCs, a design achievement that will be difficult for other companies to match, Canion said.
The full power of Intel's new microprocessor will not be unleashed until new operating systems and applications are created for it. As a first step toward that, Microsoft Corp. announced that it will create a multiuser Xenix operating system for the Deskpro 386 in the first half of 1987.
The Deskpro 386 has 1 million bytes of main memory, about 50% more than in the 640-kilobyte versions of AT-class personal computers. Main memory is expandable to 14 million bytes. The computer runs at 16 megahertz, twice the speed of the fastest AT machines, and has a 1.2-megabyte floppy disk drive.
Its microprocessor is a 32-bit chip, meaning that it works on problems in clumps of 32 bits of data at a time. That addressing capability is expected to remain the state of the art for years to come.
The Model 40 has a 40-megabyte hard disk drive and the more expensive Model 130 has a 130-megabyte hard disk drive, the largest available with any personal computer.