IBM seeks to redesign its mainframe computers using low-cost technologies

April 09, 1991|By John Markoff | John Markoff,New York Times News Service

The new president of IBM's mainframe computer division said in an interview yesterday that the company was working to "reincarnate" its most powerful and expensive computers using the same low-cost and speedy technologies that have led to the explosive growth of work stations and personal computers.

The company, which introduced a new generation of mainframe computers last September, said that it was redesigning its large systems to take advantage of the growing power of inexpensive chips known as microprocessors. These chips combine all of a computer's functions onto a single piece of silicon, thereby significantly lowering costs and raising computing speeds.

Nicholas M. Donofrio, president of the Armonk-based computer-maker's Data Systems Division, also said, "I basically believe that our single greatest competitive threat is from our non-traditional competitors."

"It's coming from the desktop competition," he added. "I keep telling my people that we live in rented space, and the lease is held by the customer."

International Business Machines Corp.'s principal competitors in the desktop computing market are now lining up behind different microprocessors.

At a news conference scheduled for today, a consortium of almost two dozen computer makers and software publishers will announce a new computing standard based on microprocessors made by Mips Computer Systems Inc. and by the Intel Corp.

Until now, mainframe computers, like those made by IBM, have been based on expensive, custom-designed, high-speed chips. IBM's major large-systems competitors are also pursuing microprocessor-based alternatives to traditional mainframe designs.

Last month executives at Digital Equipment Corp. said they planned to enter the market for massively parallel computers within the next year.

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