Computer Expo Provides Signs of Shakeout

Times Staff Writer

It didn't take much for Stephen McClellan, author of "The Coming Computer Industry Shakeout," to drive home his point to the opening-day audience at the Info Show computer exposition in Anaheim on Wednesday.

Meager attendance and a steadily declining number of exhibitors amply demonstrated that the shakeout has already arrived.

At least 35 computer product makers pulled out of the trade show in the last few weeks, leaving fewer than 85 companies to exhibit their wares, according to Laura Incerto, manager of the event, which is staged by Cahners Exposition Group.

And general attendance at the three-day show, which is aimed at computer systems managers and buyers at the nation's largest businesses, is expected to reach about 12,000, less than one-third the crowd that the show has typically had in its 14-year history.

Most notably absent was Apple Computer of Cupertino, Calif., which abruptly pulled out last week without explanation. In addition to withdrawing the company's display booth, Apple officials canceled the scheduled speech of Michael Murray, an Apple marketing executive.

Bobbi Blake, a spokeswoman for Apple, on Wednesday cited the company's recent management restructuring when asked about the cancellation. "This is a time of great change," she said. "He (Murray) needed to be here for some important decision-making."

In a reorganization announced two weeks ago, Apple Chairman Steven Jobs relinquished responsibility for the Macintosh division.

A Cahners official said the last-minute cancellation fueled rumors among exhibitors and attendees that additional changes are coming at Apple.

"We're reading between the lines and seeing upheaval in Cupertino," the official said. "There's no reason, unless something is wrong, to cancel the speaker."

Kathleen Dixon, another Apple spokeswoman, said: "We decided we didn't have the resources to devote to the show this year." She added that trade shows "are not our market focus this year."

Richard J. Matlack, president of InfoCorp, a Cupertino-based marketing research firm with offices across the street from the main Apple office buildings, said Wednesday that "there are going to be some layoffs over there. Clearly, they're having meetings on how and when to announce the layoffs."

According to Gina Cooper of InfoCorp, fewer personal computers were sold in April and May than in the same months last year. It is the first time that the personal computer industry has experienced back-to-back monthly sales declines.

If the trend persists, as InfoCorp expects, Cooper said the personal computer industry will suffer its first annual sales decline in 1985.

McClellan, a computer industry analyst for Merrill Lynch, argued that the current marketing and sales problems are not temporary but indicate fundamental changes that will continue to affect the industry as it grows into the world's largest business over the coming decade.

McClellan said that, while he expects product introductions next year to spur sales over 1985 levels, surviving the shakeout will require companies to scale down ambitious growth plans and focus on market niches.

"Once a company gets too large, it loses its competitive edge, focus and aggressiveness," McClellan said in an interview after his speech.

Times staff writer William C. Rempel contributed to this story.

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