AS IBM'S FALL LINE HITS THE RUNWAY, WALL STREET IS ALL EYES
This September, IBM is planning a smorgasbord of perhaps 200 product announcements, concentrating on its highly profitable mainframe business. Industry observers expect the company to flesh out its ES/9000 mainframe line, introduced with great fanfare a year ago, with three water-cooled processor models at the high end and one or more less powerful air-cooled models. They'll be based on essentially the same microchip technologies as last year's machines. Also expected are a new version of MVS, IBM's flagship supervisor program for mainframes, and new models of IBM's 3390 disk drive.
Wall Street, anxious about soft mainframe demand and IBM's sluggish growth, will be watching closely the delivery schedules IBM gives its new processors. Analysts say IBM's 1991 profits now hang almost entirely on its mainframe sales in the fourth quarter, when last year's processors are slated to be shipping in volume. So far, IBM says it has orders for as many ES/9000 machines as it can build through the end of the year. But if it schedules its newest processors to begin shipping this fall, too, analysts say, that may mean IBM's order book wasn't actually as full as originally believed--and that profits may falter accordingly.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG