LAS VEGAS, NOV. 3 -- IBM Corp., boasting that its new "Personal System 2" line of personal computers has turned into a bigger hit than the original IBM-PC, said today that it will release enhanced operating software for the new machines next month -- well ahead of schedule.
At a breakfast meeting during COMDEX, the computer industry's huge product exposition here, IBM said it has shipped -- but not necessarily sold -- one million of the PS/2 machines in the seven months since the new generation of personal computers was introduced.
By comparison, it took IBM two years to reach one million sales of the IBM-PC, its first great success in personal computers. However, the microcomputer market was considerably smaller when the IBM-PC came out in 1981.
IBM said it would start selling the "Operating System/2," a piece of software required to use the full power of the PS/2 machines, on Dec. 4. That's about three months ahead of schedule.
These announcements from the dominant player in the personal computer field seem likely to accelerate the industry's embrace of the new hardware and software standards IBM created with its PS/2 machines.
The PS/2 standards are generally incompatible with the huge existing base of computers and software that run with the first-generation IBM-PC. IBM's abandonment of its own standard was considered a big gamble earlier this year. A glance around the sprawling convention hall here suggests, though, that the gamble paid off.
Literally, hundreds of hardware and software companies, including all the biggest names in the business, are touting new products designed to run on the PS/2 computers. One list that is circulating here of companies moving into the PS/2 world runs to 15 single-spaced pages from "ADEM Inc." to "Ziatech."
The gloss and glitter of this giant trade show reflect this year's boom in the personal computer market. With sales skyrocketing and new products coming out by the dozens each week, the exhibit floor features some 5,000 companies showing their wares to about 100,000 computer dealers and users.
The crush creates a need for each exhibitor to attract attention, a need that leads to such incongruities as a Las Vegas showgirl in a low-cut rhinestone-studded gown reciting a spiel about 20 megahertz protected mode operations of the 80386 microprocessor.
The immediate future of personal computing, as reflected in this trade show, will involve microcomputers that operate much faster than existing machines, store and manipulate much greater quantities of information and display the information on strikingly sharp and colorful monitors.
The monitor manufacturer, Amdek, for example, is featuring a display screen so clear and detailed that it can depict each individual point of color in the pointillist paintings of George Seurat.
The new IBM operating system, "OS/2," written for IBM by the software giant Microsoft, will be priced at $395. It takes advantage of the enhanced speed and greater memory capacity of the new IBM computers. It permits "multitasking," that is, it divides the display screen into sections with each section performing a different job at the same time.
Thus, a user can be writing a letter in one corner of the screen while his computer is calculating and printing a monthly payroll account and simultaneously calling a remote data base to get information.
These technical advances are not completely good news for anyone who has invested in computer products based on the original IBM-PC standard. Most of the high-powered PS/2 hardware and software products displayed here will not work at full capacity on the first generation machines.
However, exhibitors are also showing thousands of products designed to work on first generation computers using the MS-DOS operating system.
Standing apart from this conflict is Apple Computer, which uses a completely different operating system for its machines. But exhibits at the show indicate that Apple's MacIntosh line may be facing competition from companies like Sun Microsystems, a successful maker of minicomputers that cost considerably more than PCs. Sun executives are talking about new, lower priced products that would run like Apple's top-of-the-line MacIntosh II.