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New computers fit into DEC's strategy shift

As almost a sideline to the main show, Digital Equipment Corporation did introduce several new computers intended to retain its edge in midrange computing. The new line of MicroVAX minicomputers and VAXstations is about three times as powerful as older Digital models in the same category. The computers are aimed at small departments and can provide the power of a mainframe in the space of a minicomputer.

DEC's announcements fit nicely into the broad shift in corporate computing away from centralized mainframe systems to more widely distributed departmental computing on midrange computers.

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Charles White, program director at the Gartner Group, a market research firm, says his company continues to project faster growth for midrange computers than for mainframes through the next decade.

In addition, DEC is expected to continue taking midrange market share from IBM. Mr. White says DEC's share was 20.8 percent in 1985, compared with IBM's 27.9 percent. By 1990, however, DEC will have surged to 28.5 percent of the market, to IBM's 23.3, he predicts.

``In 1989 to 1991 there will be several very important inflection points in the data processing industry'' that will boost midrange system sales, White says. He points to complete availability of the new IBM PS/2 (personal computer) operating system; full availability of software to make different computer systems talk with each other; IBM's shipment of its new-generation Summit mainframe computers.

When these products are all available, White says, networking will be much easier. Partly because of such factors, midrange sales should surge from about $22.6 billion in 1987 to about $41.4 billion in 1992, surpassing mainframe sales of $31.4 billion, he says.