IBM May Unveil Faster Computer

From Reuters

International Business Machines Corp. is likely to announce a faster version of its top-of-the-line mainframe computer next month, analysts said.

They said the new F series of the 3090 family aims to tide over customers until IBM introduces a line of computers more than twice as fast, code-named Summit, in late 1989.

"The 3090 F series and . . . operating system announcements will set the stage for . . . Summit," said Frank Gens, a consultant with International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass.

Daniel Culhane, an analyst with Gartner Group, Stamford, Conn., and formerly manager of large systems marketing for IBM, has said IBM's F series will run 20% faster than its 3090 E series.

The power of the F series will range from processing 38 million instructions per second--or MIPS, a standard measure of computer performance--for a computer containing two processors to 100 MIPS for a six-processor system.

The most powerful E series runs at 79 MIPS. Gens estimated that the F models will cost 12% more than the E series.

The upgrade to the 3090, a year after IBM's last upgrade, comes when mainframe computer sales are sluggish.

Analysts say the sluggish sales worry IBM, which controls about 75% of the world's $22-billion market for computers that cost $1 million or more.

About 55% of IBM's revenue and 40% of its profit comes from general purpose mainframes--machines that require their own rooms and have such large-scale applications as payroll processing, maintaining corporate records and transaction processing.

Mainframes carry gross profit margins of 70% or more, compared to 40% and below for personal computers.

Computer users are increasingly turning to small systems--minicomputers and personal computers linked together--as a cheaper solution to their processing needs.

Market researcher InfoCorp estimated that in 1982 about 5.8 million computers were shipped worldwide with an average price of $8,250. By 1992, shipments will rise to 38 million units at an average price of only $4,264, the company said.

Analysts also said many mainframe customers were waiting to buy Summit models and meanwhile were leasing 3090 computers or buying them second-hand rather than buying new ones.

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