The Donald Duck home computer system is here.
In a new effort to create what computer people call a "user-friendly" computer--meaning one that won't intimidate people--Walt Disney Telecommunications Inc. and Panasonic today announced a new home computer system that will use such non-threatening characters as Donald Duck, Bambi, Goofy and Winnie-the-Pooh to teach people how to use the machine.
The Disney-Panasonic announcement came on the opening day of the 1983 Winter Consumer Electronics Show, the electronics industry's annual new products extravaganza, a sprawling array of glitz, gadgets and gimmickry that covers several acres of hotel and convention hall space here.
In the past, the Consumer Electronics Show has served mainly as a showcase for the newest radios, stereo equipment and television sets. But this year the home computer--a small, simple machine that sells in simplest form for less than a TV set--is the runaway star of the show.
The new Disney-Panasonic computer, which will go on sale in March at a list price of $349 is one of a score of new, low-priced computers displayed here that will come out in 1983.
For anyone currently considering the purchase of a small home computer, the message of this electronics show seems to be "wait a little while." Judging from exhibits here, it seems clear that selection will expand and prices contract by spring.
Jealous of the success of the bare-bones, $99.95 Sinclair-Timex computer--which sold about 600,000 units last year--at least three more makers plan to bring out simple computers at the $100 price level this spring. (That price does not include the TV set needed to display what the computer is doing or the cassette tape recorder required to store information.)
Such "low-end" systems will be sold mainly in department and discount stores, manufacturers say. Prices well below $100 are almost certain.
"At this end of the business, it's like kamikaze warfare," said Dennis Liakos of Texas Instruments Inc. This year Texas Instruments will bring out a new computer with a suggested retail price of $99.95, "but the kamikazes out there will sell it at $89.95, $79.95, maybe less," Liakos predicted. In just four years since the Apple II computer gave the personal computer market its initial impetus, the business has become highly segmented. There are "home computers," priced downward from $500, "personal" computers priced up to about $3,000, plus "professional" computers and "business" computers, and on and on.
The bottom end, the home computer, is the hottest ticket now.
Two leading computer makers, IBM and Atari, are conspiciously refraining from the rush toward "low-end" products. IBM representatives laughed off speculation that the firm has a new, low-priced computer in the works for the home market. Atari's new entry will go on sale this year at a price close to $1,000.