Sony Fires Its Opening Shot

By Ronald L. Rhodes
The New York Times

August 1, 1982

Japanese companies have been waging a form of guerrilla warfare in the computer industry for years. Japanese makers account for 60 percent of the video display screens and printers, 35 percent of the disk drives and 25 percent of the semiconductors used in computers.

But one overt salvo in the battle for the personal computer market was fired in June, when the Sony Corporation of America demonstrated its new SMC-70 desktop microcomputer at the National Computer Conference in Houston.

Sony's computer, available in September at a basic price of $1,475, satisfies three key requirements analysts say companies must meet if they are to succeed in the emerging market: Its hardware must be compatible with other systems, its programs must be compatible or easily adaptable and it must have an extensive distribution network.

Donald Marro, general manager of Sony's new Microcomputer Products Division, in Montvale, N.J., noted that his company's computer satisfies those demands in several ways: It uses Sony's Trinitron display technology and its storage and semiconducter technology to keep the size and weight down. It also borrows from other makers, notably for its Z80A microprocessor, from Zilog Inc. Its software is compatible too, using the Digital Research CP/M operating system and offering applications packages such as Visicalc word processing.

Mr. Marro said Sony will take advantage of its own distribution network, but he noted: ''A lot are being sold through computer stores, so that will be a key category for us.''

The Sony entry has been criticized by some analysts, who have found it much like other products already on the market. ''It just doesn't have any pizazz in terms of special features,'' said Leonard Barshack, an analyst from Salomon Brothers.

But Mr. Marro said Sony, aiming for the office market, rather than home users, purposely chose to avoid the ''gee-whiz'' market approach. ''Our feeling is that the customers we're seeking don't much care what the machine has,'' he said, ''as long as it has it at a relatively good price.''

GRAPHIC: Illustrations: photo of a customer using a personal computer with a light pen graphs of sales of microcomputers of U.S., Japanese make

Copyright 1982 The New York Times Company