In a surprise announcement, Advanced Logic Research Inc. on Tuesday unveiled a lightweight notebook personal computer that one analyst said could spark a price war in an already-crowded market.
ALR’s 7-pound machine will sell for $2,795, less than half the price of notebook computers sold by some of its major competitors, including Compaq Computer Corp. The ALR machine is slower in performance but offers most of the features of some competing machines.
“It has all the right competitive features, such as memory, weight, battery life, and it is aggressively priced,” said Rick Martin, computer analyst for Prudential Bache Securities in New York.
“Of the major brands, it’s by far the cheapest.”
ALR will begin shipments of its Venture 16 computer in late December but won’t ship the product in larger volume until January--about the same time that several other notebook manufacturers are expected to begin volume production.
“We think there are a lot of people who can’t afford a $5,000 notebook who will be willing to pay less than $3,000,” said Dave Kirkey, ALR’s vice president of marketing.
Notebook computers get their name from their size. While the market is dominated by Compaq, Toshiba Corp. and Zenith Data Systems, scores of companies introduced 386SX notebook models at the recent Comdex trade show in Las Vegas.
Irvine-based AST Research Inc. has a notebook computer with features similar to ALR’s new machine, although AST’s model is 25% faster and costs only slightly more, $2,995. Compaq introduced its Compaq LTE 386s/20 notebook in October at prices starting at $6,400.
Kirkey said ALR did not introduce a notebook machine at Comdex because it didn’t want its product announcement to be lost among the many similar products on display at Comdex. In fact, in interviews at the Comdex show, Kirkey and ALR officials had downplayed the importance of entering the notebook field.
The ALR machine is based on Intel Corp.'s 80386SX microprocessor, the speedy computer chip that has become the processor of choice for notebook computers. It comes with a three-hour battery life, 20 megabytes of memory and a black-and-white VGA liquid-crystal display screen. A $3,295 version, with 40 megabytes of memory, will be available in the first quarter of 1991, ALR officials said.
An analyst at the New York investment firm Goldman Sachs & Co. recently estimated that AST could sell more than 10,000 notebook computers during the first quarter of 1991. But ALR’s Martin said he believed that figure is too high. AST officials declined comment.
Both the ALR and AST machines are “positioned well” as far as price goes, Martin said. “These companies will be slugging it out with the big guys.”