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Irvine-Based ALR Readies Its Own Entry in Race to Build Better Clone of IBM PS/2

Times Staff Writer

Advanced Logic Research, a small but rapidly growing Irvine computer maker, next week will become the third U.S. manufacturer to introduce a clone of International Business Machine’s PS/2 line of personal computers.

ALR’s announcement comes at a time when IBM is stepping up its efforts to establish the PS/2 Micro Channel as an industry standard, accepted by the hundreds of companies that produce personal computers and accessory products. Micro Channel is the internal data pathway used inside the PS/2 machines.

Tandy Corp. and Dell Computer Corp. have also introduced clones of the IBM PS/2 line.

ALR, which will formally announce its Micro Channel clone on March 17, claims that its machine will be able to process data faster than the comparable IBM, Tandy or Dell models.

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Slow to Catch On

Since its entry into the personal computer market in 1981, IBM has been the standard-setter for the design of the internal workings of desktop computers.

Last September, however, a group of computer companies challenged IBM’s dominance by unveiling plans for a rival standard. The group was led by Compaq Computer, a leading maker of IBM-compatible machines, and included AST Research, an Irvine PC maker.

IBM has been hoping that the Micro Channel, like its earlier AT and XT designs, would catch on in the industry. But until recently the IBM standard has been slow to catch on.

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In the past several months “there has been a tremendous amount of interest” in Micro Channel, said Dave Kirkey, ALR’s vice president of sales. “IBM is really putting a lot of effort into making it a successful product.”

ALR hopes to benefit from wider acceptance of IBM’s Micro Channel design among corporate customers in much the same way that clone-makers have in the past: by offering competitively priced and often more powerful versions of the IBM models.

But one industry analyst doubts that the ALR strategy will succeed.

“The corporate customers who are buying (Micro Channel) machines are not buying them for the technology, but because they are made by IBM,” said Richard Shaffer, publisher of the New York-based Computer Letter. “I don’t think ALR is going to get much out of (the Micro Channel) product. What do you get from them that you can’t get from IBM, Tandy or Dell?”

ALR President Gene Lu disagreed. “There’s always a business opportunity when you have a significantly better product than IBM,” he said. “There are needs in the industry we can fulfill that IBM cannot.”

Founded in 1984, privately held ALR has grown from sales of $15 million 2 years ago to $40 million for the fiscal year that ended last September, Lu said. ALR expects sales to reach nearly $100 million this year.

ALR is 60% owned by Singapore-based Wearnes Bros. Ltd. It employs slightly more than 200 people, mostly in Irvine.


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