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Power turns attention to Intel

Next week, the former Mac cloner will announce its first line of computers aimed at the much-larger Intel-compatible market.

Intel is in and Apple is out.

Power Computing, the former Mac-clone Mac merger company known for its anti-Intel slogans, may be having second thoughts about its behavior as it prepares to leave the Apple Macintosh market and enter the Intel-compatible PC market.

Next week, the company will officially announce its first line of computers aimed at the massive Intel-compatible market, which last year was estimated to be valued at $125 billion annually. The Macintosh market is a small fraction of this size, estimated by some to be valued at between $4 and $6 billion.

The first Power Computing Intel systems will be notebook PCs which use Pentium processors and run the Windows operating system. The "PowerTrip" notebooks will ship with Intel's upcoming 200- and 233-MHz MMX Pentium processors and either 12.1- or 13.3-inch active matrix screens.

Apple and Power Computing employees alike will note with irony that the company will be able to deliver its Intel-based notebooks to market while a faster PowerPC notebook it had already designed will never see the light of day. Power Computing fought to ship the computer but was never given the go-ahead to ship because Apple decided not to license a version of the Macintosh operating system (Mac OS) for use in notebooks.

Saying that there was "No way around the roadblock," Bob Groppo, vice president of Power Computing's PC efforts, notes that Apple's buyout "allows us to focus our resources on our 'Wintel' effort."

Just a week ago, the Mac faithful that Power Computing once wooed would have viewed such a move as heresy. But for Power Computing, the move to the so-called Wintel platform, which has been in the works for nine months, is now a matter of absolute necessity.

Apple Computer (AAPL) yesterday announced it purchased Power Computing's "key assets" in a stock deal worth $100 million. Apple essentially bought back the license to the Mac OS and a list of some 200,000 customers who bought Power Computing's Mac systems. The largest Mac clone vendor said it will no longer sell Mac systems after Dec 31, 1997.

While Power Computing made a big impact on the Mac market, the direct vendor will have a considerably harder time in the PC-compatible market. The company will square off against other direct vendors such as Dell, Gateway2000, and Micron.

The company will also have to clamor for attention in a notebook market dominated by Toshiba, IBM, and Compaq.

"The question is, where are they differentiating their systems? Are they just another direct vendor? If that's the case, then get in the line behind Dell, Gateway and Winbook," said Randy Giusto, portable systems analyst with International Data Corporation.

Power Computing won't try and move into the corporate accounts dominated by the larger players, it says. It will focus on smaller companies and areas such as the graphic arts and content creation industries that it targeted previously as a Mac clone maker.

"We've got to be fast, smart and we've got to be able to make a lot of noise, but we're good at that," says Groppo.

The PowerTrip comes with a 20X CD-ROM, either a 2.1GB or 4.0GB removable hard disk drive, and 16MB of memory in base configuration. In addition to the usual ports, the PowerTrip comes with a NTSC/PAL output for displaying information on a television screen.

The PowerTrip 200 with a 200-MHz MMX Pentium proccessor and 12.1-inch display is priced starting at $3,299, while a model with the 13.3-inch display and 32MB of memory is priced starting at $3,999. The PowerTrip 233 with 233-MHz MMX Pentium processor and 12.1-inch display is priced starting at $3,599, while a configuration with the 13.3-inch display and 64MB of memory is priced starting at $4,999.

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