NEW YORK, MARCH 3 -- Texas Instruments Inc. said today it will sell a computer for artificial intelligence work based on Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh II, a step that should move "thinking machines" more into the mainstream of business.

Texas Instruments said the new Micro Explorer would have all the functions of a standard Macintosh II as well as artificial intelligence features, such as the ability to manipulate symbols instead of just numbers.

Most other artificial intelligence workstations, including Texas Instruments' own Explorer, cannot be used as general-purpose computers.

Other companies working on artificial intelligence also are moving to insert their technology into existing computers, including Texas Instruments' biggest rival in the field, Symbolics Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.

Apple said, however, that it will have an especially close relationship with Dallas-based Texas Instruments. In a first for both companies, Texas Instruments and Apple will both put their logos on the Micro Explorer, which will be marketed only by Texas Instruments.

Texas Instruments and Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., said the Micro Explorer could be used in such varied fields as tax advising, computer-aided design and assigning airport gates to airplanes.

Although artificial intelligence encompasses the whole concept of making computers think like people, most products on the market have a more modest goal of augmenting human decision makers by converting knowledge into a set of rules that can be applied by a computer.

Texas Instruments said the price of the Micro Explorer will range from $15,000 to $30,000, compared with $50,000 to $70,000 for the Explorer, which is about twice as powerful. An artificial intelligence package also will be available for people who already own the Mac II. Shipments are scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year.

Symbolics, meanwhile, said its Ivory chip for artificial intelligence is superior to Texas Instruments' Explorer Lisp chip. Symbolics also said its chip can be plugged into not only the Mac II, but also International Business Machines Corp.'s Personal System-2 and PC AT, although Symbolics could not give a timetable for the availability of the chip.