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IBM, Lotus Grab Attention at Comdex

November 04, 1987|VICTOR F. ZONANA | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — IBM said Tuesday that it had gone over the 1 million mark in Personal System/2 sales, a little more than six months after its new line of personal computers was introduced.

IBM's announcement came at a breakfast meeting on the second day of Comdex, the weeklong personal computer trade show that has broken records this fall with over 90,000 people in attendance.

The president of the IBM Entry Systems Division, William C. Lowe, said that production of the machines had been stepped up three times this year, to around 9,000 units a day, but that the company is still having trouble satisfying demand in the United States and Europe.

That production works out to a rate of over 3.2 million units annually--a "staggering" number, said Salomon Bros. analyst Michele Preston, especially considering that there are only about 10 million IBM and compatible personal computers in use in the world today.

The show features 15 miles of aisles in seven locations, all of them crammed with the latest in PC technology. By day, participants wander the aisles and attend seminars given by industry luminaries. By night, they attend parties where they munch on Chateaubriand and prawns and enjoy such entertainment as a concert by the Temptations and even helicopter joy rides.

Noteworthy trends at the show included the proliferation of "mice," or pointing devices, and computer monitors boasting dazzling graphics capabilities. Both types of products are expected to boom over the next few years as a new generation of graphically oriented software comes to the fore.

Add-On Products

The new software will be made possible by IBM and Microsoft's jointly developed Operating System/2, which increases the amount of memory a program can address by a factor of 25. IBM cheered attendees by announcing that it would ship the first version of OS/2 in December--three months ahead of schedule. Many skeptics had feared delays in the development of the new operating system, which manages a computer's operations.

Other trends included a proliferation of add-on products for IBM's Personal System/2--but still no clones of the machine from competitors. IBM's Lowe on Tuesday again warned would-be clone-makers that "we intend to protect our investment" on the machines, many of whose features are patented and incorporate trade-secret designs.

And there were indications of the growing acceptance of machines based on Intel's top-of-the-line 80386 microprocessor as the office standard of the future. Several manufacturers, for example, unveiled portable machines based on the chip, which serves as the "brain" of a computer.

But perhaps the most talked about new product at the show was Lotus Agenda, a "personal information manager" from the maker of the top-selling 1-2-3 spreadsheet program.

"Lotus has built its business around intelligent ways to manage numbers," said the company's president and chief executive, Jim Manzi, at the pink neon-lit press conference where the product was unveiled. "With Agenda, we're introducing a product that will help people manage textual data more intelligently."

"This is an entirely new class of software," said Esther Dyson, publisher of Release 1.0, a software industry newsletter. "It has the ability to look at text intelligently and to categorize it for the user."

Unlike traditional databases, which force information into predetermined structures, Agenda will allow users to enter information at random and then organize it later on.

It is intended to give computer users extra flexibility in deciding how to use their data. The program, due for release early next year, has a list price of $395.

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