Since 1985, IBM has had a license from Intel Corp. to manufacture its own supply of the chipmaker's 80386 microprocessor. Big Blue has often done so, but mostly just to supplement shipments from Intel. Until now. On Oct. 17, IBM planned to announce that it has developed its own version of the 386 chip that it will sell separately as a sort of PC turbocharger. Two years in the making by IBM's reduced instruction-set computing team in Burlington, Vt., the 386 SLC comes packaged on an optional add-on card that can be plugged into IBM's PS/2 Model 57 SX.
IBM says it will charge about $800 for the board. But it promises that when the microprocessor card is installed in the Model 57, which starts at $3,625, software will run as fast as it would on far more expensive PCs built with Intel's newer 80486 chip. For instance, IBM's testers say the chip made Lotus Development Corp.'s 1-2-3 spreadsheet run 88% faster than on a Model 57 without the upgrade, and that Microsoft's Word for Windows word processing program had a 56% increase in performance.