TI, Tandy to ambush 386 notebooks with 486 attack


Texas, June 1— Texas Instruments, Inc. and Tandy Corp. have jumped into the 486 notebook saddle, with pricing aimed at pushing 386 notebooks off the fast track.

Both TI and Tandy’s Intel Corp. 1486SX-based notebooks are priced around $3,000, a point below the list price for 80386SL-based notebooks from companies such as Compaq Computer Corp. and Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. TT’s machines are slated . for availability next month; Tandy’s machines are expected to ship next week.

“What would you buy, a 486 or a 386, if the price on the 486 was less?” asked Nassir Ahmed, TI’s portable products marketing manager.

At least one user said a 486 would not be enough for a sale. “What we want in the next generation is the 486, but we also want upgradabil-ity,” said Kevin Maloney, manager of technology planning and office automation support at Pepsi-Cola International, Inc. in White Plains, N.Y.

While TI’s TravelMate 4000 line does not feature upgradability, analysts said the 5.6-pound Trav-elmate 4000 WinSX/16, WinSX/25 and WinDX/25 were innovative. “I’m impressed with what they’ve done,” said Richard Zwetchken-baum, senior personal computer analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass.

He saiaTI’s BatteryPro power management software made its claim of four to five hours of battery life seem believable, its display is much improved over the good display of the TravelMate 3000 and optional small local-area network and peripheral adapters are a good idea.

Zwetchkenbaum also said TI had done a good job of tailoring the products to run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 3.1. These include TI’s Drag N Go utility, which lets users move a file from one application to another by clicking on icons.

Race is on

While Ahmed said TI believes its pricing and features will give it as much as an eight-month window of opportunity in the fledgling market for 486 notebooks, analysts disagreed. “It is a window of opportunity for TI, but other vendors will be there,” said JoeAnn Stahel, president of Stahel & Co. in Piano, Texas.

TI’s advantage could be shortlived. Compaq is expected to introduce two notebooks based on 33-MHz 486DX chips next month, and Zfiiith Data Systems is close behind with a 486-based notebook, analysts said. Both companies refused to comment.

Analysts said Tandy’s notebooks were impressive as well but that their 60M-byte hard drive maximum, in this configuration, might be a drawback for the market.

The Tandy 4800 HD uses a 20-MHz 486SX and will sell for $2,999, the same price as Tandy’s recently announced 386SL-based 3330 notebook. The $3,499 Tandy 4860 HD books were impressive as well but that their 60M-byte hard drives and 4M bytes of random-access memory, expandable to 20M bytes.

Some analysts said 486 notebooks may well become the standard for corporations purchasing new notebooks by 1993.

—Michael Fitzgerald.

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