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Pentium Pro off to a slow start in '96

Despite a big push by Intel and others, shipments of Pentium Pro systems are expected to be relatively paltry in 1996.

Despite a big push by Intel and high-profile product roll-outs by heavyweights such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM, shipments of Pentium Pro systems are expected to be relatively paltry in 1996, according to International Data Corporation.

The research firm is predicting that only about 1.1 million systems using "sixth generation" processors such as the Pentium Pro will ship in 1996 in the United States. Systems based on the Pentium Pro will compose the overwhelming majority of these chips.

Systems using Pentiums and other "fifth generation" processors will tally a whopping 21 million in the U.S. market in 1996, IDC said.

"Many [companies] will be buying Pentium Pro [systems] to evaluate, but not rolling them out en masse in 1996," said IDC analyst Richard Zwetchkenbaum.

Many corporations are interested in moving to Pentium Pro systems at the same time they move to the computing-intensive Windows NT operating system. Intel hopes for a fast migration to the Pentium Pro and is pushing a new strategy that says the Pentium and Windows 95 is for consumers while corporate users should buy the Pentium Pro and Windows NT. "Intel's Pentium Pro strategy [for corporations] is essentially to sell Windows NT for Microsoft," said one industry source who asked to remain anonymous.

But IDC says the transition to the Pentium Pro/Windows NT desktop will be a slow one. Although there are several well-publicized examples of large companies planning wholesale adoptions of NT, Windows 3.1 is still the most dominant PC operating system in corporations, Zwetchkenbaum said. He expects that the "crossover"--when more Pentium Pros ship than Pentiums--won't occur until 1998.

Nevertheless, vendors of new Pentium Pro systems remain optimistic. "We expect to ship a lot of Pentium Pro systems in 1996. NT and the Pentium Pro is an obvious marriage," said an HP spokesperson.

Related stories:
HP to roll out cheaper Pentium Pro PCs
New Pentium Pro systems on the way
Pro push may presage Pentium decline
Intel releases new prices on Pentiums