DEC Adds 3 Personal Computers

By Andrew Pollack
The New York Times

May 11, 1982

The Digital Equipment Corporation, which is generally considered the leading American computer company after the International Business Machines Corporation, entered the personal computer business yesterday with three new products.

The new computers, which will range in price from $3,500 to $5,000 and be available in the fall, are clearly aimed at the office and small-business market, rather than the home market.

Analysts said the DEC computers are technically impressive and aggressively priced. The one problem DEC might have is in distribution, because the company has not had much experience selling to offices, the analysts said. The company has concentrated its sales efforts on selling to laboratories, factories and data processing departments, as well as to companies that incorporate DEC computers into other systems.

Delayed Market Entry

''DEC has been playing catch-up in office automation,'' said Howard Anderson, president of the Yankee Group, a Boston computer and telecommunications industry consulting firm. DEC's word processor sales have lagged well behind those of I.B.M. and Wang Laboratories, he said.

DEC, with revenues of $3.2 billion in the fiscal year 1981, is the leading manufacturer of minicomputers, which are generally the size of refrigerators and sell for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. By contrast, personal computers, sometimes called microcomputers, can fit on desk tops and sell for less than $10,000.

DEC's entry into the personal computer market has been considered inevitable and actually comes later than many analysts had anticipated. Both I.B.M. and Xerox entered the market about a year ago, while Apple and Tandy have been in it for about five years. The delay was especially surprising in that the company's strength was achieved in the 1960's in small, less-expensive computers.

But Andrew C. Knowles 3d, vice president of the company's small systems division, as well as some analysts, said that DEC was not too late. ''There is still 90 percent of the market sitting out there,'' Mr. Knowles said.

These are the three computers introduced yesterday:

- The Rainbow 100, a computer with two microprocessors. It is capable of executing programs written for eight-bit computers that use the popular internal operating system known as CP/M, as well as programs written for the 16-bit I.B.M. personal computer. (The number of bits of information processed at once is a rough measure of the power of the computer.) The Rainbow has a list price of $3,500, which includes about 64,000 characters of internal memory, a black-and-white display screen, keyboard and two floppy disk storage devices capable of storing 800,000 characters.

- The Decmate II, a reworked version of DEC's word processor. Decmate II sells for $3,800 and includes 96,000 characters of memory, as well as the same screen, keyboard and disk storage as used with the Rainbow.

- The Professional Series, which comprises two models, one selling for $4,000 and the other for $5,000. Both are 16-bit machines with more than 256,000 characters of memory and are capable of doing more than one task at the same time. The more powerful model can accommodate an optional hard disk storage device capable of storing five million characters, and an optional attachment that will automatically place, receive or digitally record telephone calls.

DEC said that 22 independent software companies were modifying 75 programs for use on the Professional Series computers, DEC said. Software offerings for the other two machines are more limited. In addition, the two more expensive computers can run software written for some of DEC's larger computers and all the computers can act as terminals connected to larger DEC computers.

DEC will sell the new computers through its direct sales force to large corporations and through its other existing distributors. The company also said its new computers would be carried by Computerland, a chain of 260 computer retail stores, and by Avnet Inc., the largest domestic electronics distributor.

Mr. Anderson and George Elling, an analyst at Bear, Stearns & Company, noted that DEC's sales staff and distributors would favor selling larger DEC computers, because they can earn more money that way. The computerland stores, meanwhile, are already crowded with products from I.B.M., Apple, Xerox and others. ''Some of those guys will push the others off the shelf into the sea,'' Mr. Anderson said.

Copyright 1982 The New York Times Company