IBM Beefs Up Weakness in Mid-Range Computers

Associated Press

International Business Machines is improving the connections between its computers and strengthening its mid-size models, the System 36 and System 38, the company reported Monday.

The offerings should help IBM in one of its few weak spots, mid-size computers, where it trails Digital Equipment Corp. in sales, analysts said.

IBM announced more than 100 products in all, ranging from a new photocopier to InfoWindow Display, a computer with a screen that responds to the touch of a finger and produces still or motion pictures, graphics and sound.

“The IBM salesman has perhaps never had a wider range of products to sell. There’s a lot of different arrows in the quiver,” said Frederic Withington, an analyst for Arthur D. Little Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.


Some of the products remain a ways off. The new System 38 models will be available in August and the System 36 models in late 1986 or early 1987.

IBM, stressing its strength in “connectivity,” announced better ways for its mid-size computers to communicate with each other and for its personal computers to communicate with its big mainframe machines.

It also announced improved links with non-IBM products. IBM sells about 70% of the world’s big mainframe computers but has been relatively weak in sales of smaller computers that are intended to do the work of a single department in a company. That is where Digital Equipment is strongest.

Monday’s announcements are intended to solve IBM’s mid-range problem, said John Edwards, a computer columnist in New York. The System 36 and System 38 are more powerful than personal computers but smaller than mainframes.


IBM said the three new models of its System 36 increase the system’s overall performance by up to 40% for data processing and up to 100% for other jobs in the office.

The three new models of the more powerful System 38 include one, the smallest, that is 30% faster and 30% cheaper than the smallest one in the current System 38 line, IBM said. A new program called Advanced Peer-to-Peer Networking allows the System 36 and System 38 to communicate with each other in an office network without relying on a bigger IBM mainframe as a host, IBM said.

IBM also announced the biggest improvement since 1977 in its 3270 terminals, which connect users directly with IBM mainframes.