Tandy Creates Sensation for Multimedia Computers

Article excerpt

DALLAS _ Tandy Corp. has fired its first salvo in a new, aggressive gameplan designed to push multimedia computers into the mainstream.

In an effort to expand its market for computers that can process text, sound and images, Tandy introduced Sensation _ its first multimedia computer designed primarily for home users.

The introduction Wednesday moves Tandy closer to its longld goal of making a personal computer that can serve as a household appliance as well as being a numberunching machine.

Sensation, which costs $1,999 without a monitor, can double as a telephone answering machine and send fax messages. It also has options available for users to add stereo speakers or transform the monitor into a television set capable of showing cable TV channels.

"Sensation is not just another PC with multimedia features," said Howard Elias, vice president of Tandy Computers. "We see this as a product that will be a catalyst for a whole new generation of computer software."

Developing that new computer software, however, is a chickendg situation for the PC industry, Elias said.

Software companies will develop new multimedia applications only when a large group of people own multimedia computers. But shoppers will be hesitant to buy those computers until they see a large portfolio of software applications available.

To encourage the purchase of Sensation, Fort Worthsed Tandy borrowed a strategy it used extensively in the late 1980s. It created a software program designed to make a PC simple for even a computer novice to use.

In the 1980s, the company equipped many of its Tandy 1000 machines with a program called DeskMate, which provided easy-toe menus that guided a user through the system.

With Sensation, Tandy bundled its new WinMate software package _ a system designed to make it easier to use the increasingly popular Windows operating system developed by MicroSoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash.

WinMate represents Tandy's latest attempt at turning the PC into a household appliance. The package operates Sensation's telephone answering system, provides financial planning software and is equipped with an electronic scheduling calender. It also offers basic video games, software for printing banners and nametags, and packages that lets a user link into videotext services such as Prodigy, America On Line and The Sierra Network.

In effect, WinMate is a lure designed to persuade shoppers to buy the Sensation. And Sensation, which has a standard 3-inch floppy drive, also just happens to have a compact disc drive capable of running multimedia software.

By getting these CD-equipped Sensations into the hands of home users, Tandy expects to help create a market for CD-based multimedia software.

As more software applications are developed to tap into this growing market, more shoppers will have reason to buy multimedia computers, helping Tandy sell more computers in future years. Tandy Chairman John Roach estimates that 20 percent of the company's computer sales in the next year will come from multimedia computers. …