IBM wanted to celebrate the success of its PS/2 line at the fall COMDEX show, so it proclaimed that it had shipped the one-millionth PS/2 computer and rolled out a big ad campaign based on the theme Thanks a million. Industry pundits quickly scrambled to determine just what shipped meant.
The consensus of opinion among these party-poopers was that IBM had built a million units of the new models and had sent them to dealers, but that maybe as many as a third of them still actually hadn't been sold. This technicality didn't stop IBM from flying the dealer who sold the millionth unit to Las Vegas for the show.
How could even IBM, with all of its computing power, figure out exactly which dealer sold the millionth computer? Their rather pragmatic approach was to have each of about 200 regional sales representatives pick one of their dealers, all 200 of whom were brought to the show on the premise that they had sold the lucky machine. Well, the winner was probably in the group there, somewhere.
It wouldn't be an IBM product introduction without rumors of problems with the new machines. First, there was a minor problem with the BIOS of the Model 50 and Model 60 which caused the time to be inaccurate in some situations. This reportedly caused some dealers to conclude that the clocks were bad and to ship back all of their units as defective. IBM issued a quick DOS patch to fix that problem, but the confusion lingers.
Recently, there have been rumors of power-supply problems with the Model 50 and a high overall failure rate for the machines. IBM has issued a firm statement saying that there are no problems with the new machines.
Those of you who can remember way back to the AT introduction may recall that a number of users claimed that there were serious hard-drive problems with the machine. IBM denied all such reports. Several publications made intensive studies of the problem, leading to results that were inconclusive at best. By the time these studies were published, IBM had changed hard-drive vendors, and everybody had forgotten about the rumored problems.
At the annual World of Commodore show in Toronto, Commodore officials announced that the company had met its goal of an installed base of 500,000 Amigas worldwide by the end of 1987. Part of the reason for this is the tremendous reception of the Amiga 500 in Europe. Over half of the Amigas sold have gone to customers outside of the U.S. Nonetheless, the 500 appears to be gaining momentum here as well. The 2000 has sold so much better than Commodore expected that the machine was unavailable for much of the Christmas selling season.
But, surprisingly enough, the Commodore 64 also appears to flourish. Despite the fact that the Amiga 500 offers ten times the power of the 64 for about a 50-percent-higher price, the name-recognition factor generated by an installed base of over ten-million machines obviously still carries some weight. Commodore chairman Irving Gould stated that he could have sold an additional fifty-thousand 64C's if he could have produced them in time for Christmas.
The continuing popularity of the 64 in Canada was particularly evident at the Toronto show, where the proportion of interest in the 64/128 as compared to the Amiga was much higher than at similar U.S. shows.
Motorola has formally announced the 68030, the most recent addition to the 68000 family of processors used in such machines as the Macintosh, ST, and Amiga. While its predecessor, the 68020, has been likened in power to Intel's 80386 chip, the new processor is said to be two to four times as powerful. Since its instruction set is very close to those of the other 68000-series chips, software compatibility should be good.
The first name-brand machine to use the new processor will likely be the Macintosh. The Mac II already uses the 68020 and probably does not need any significant modifications in order to use the new chip. Insiders say that the 68030 version of the Mac II could show up any day now. Although such a machine would not be cheap, it would rank among the most powerful desktop units available. And though the ST and Amiga line still don't include a 68020 machine, both Commodore and Atari have stated that they intend to use the 68030 in future products.
One of the most interesting stories to come out of the recent AppleFest was a statement from Apple that over 200,000 units of the IIGS had been sold so far. This figure is about twice as large as most previous industry estimates.
The reason so many people had underestimated the GS is that a large proportion of sales have been to schools and other institutions. Such sales may not be as visible as retail sales, but they are perhaps even more important to the continued success of the GS. Apple is well aware that large sales to schools today can generate even larger sales for home use in the future.