Reinforcing its reputation as the personal computer industry's technology leader, the Compaq Computer Corp. has become the first company to fit the full power of a desktop PC into a laptop small enough to carry in a briefcase.
In doing so, Compaq has come close to creating a single computer that can meet the needs of an executive, both in the office and on the road.
The Compaq LTE 386s/20 laptop weighs 7.5 pounds. At 11 inches wide, 8.5 inches deep and 2.2 inches tall, it is roughly the size of a middleweight telephone book.
Compaq refers to its new machine as a notebook PC, but it's well beyond the 5-pound limit that many people assign to that classification.
Regardless of the nomenclature, the LTE 386s/20 is a champion in its weight class.
It boasts an Intel 386SX microprocessor operating at 20 megahertz, 2 megabytes of system memory, a high-capacity diskette drive, a choice of 30-TH or 60MB hard disk drive and VGA graphics.
No other portable of comparable size can match its features. Epson America Inc. is the only other computer maker to have announced a 386SX-based notebook machine. At 5.8 pounds, it is closer to being a true notebook.
But the Epson uses a slower, 16-megahertz chip, and it will not be available until the end of the year. Compaq officials say their machine is on its way to the stores.
As with most Compaq computers, the LTE 386s/20 carries a premium price: $6,499 for the 30MB model, $6,999 for the 60MB model.
An optional desktop "docking" station that surrounds the LTE and adds two expansion slots, two more drive bays and the ability to use standard keyboards and monitors, is $1,499.
Compaq officials said the expansion base allows the LTE 386s/20 to be used as the executive's primary desktop machine. For life on the road, the LTE slips out of the docking station.
Frank J. Michnoff, senior research analyst for Meta Group Inc., a market research company in Westport, Conn., said the pricing was "somewhat in line" with his expectations.
"Compaq doesn't want to cannibalize any other existing models," Mr. Michnoff said, referring to the larger and less expensive 386SX-based SLT computer.
He said that if Compaq follows past custom, it can be expected to reduce the price of the new model after the competition arrives.
That competition is already on the horizon. According to Compaq, notebook computers are expected to account for 50 percent of all portable sales by 1992.
"By the end of the year, I think you'll see a whole roster of similar products, some in the 6-pound range," said Bruce A. Stephen, director of PC hardware research for the International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass. "There will be lighter machines, and products that will cost less."