Next year, when you're ready to buy an IBM or Compaq personal computer, you may not have to do more than pick up the telephone. Compaq Computer Corp. has said that it may set up mail-order distribution for some of its PCs, and Big Blue says it's considering a similar plan. The idea is revolutionary for the two big PC makers, which rely mostly on computer dealers to sell their wares.
But mail order's low overhead and the success of Dell Computer, which built a $546 million business selling PCs through the mail, has lots of big companies cozying up to the post office. Researcher WorkGroup Technologies Inc. says 24% of computers sold in 1991 moved through the mail. By 1995, that will be 30%. Both IBM and Compaq will use telemarketers to sell their PCs, rather than advertise them in magazines as clonemakers do. IBM says it will keep dealers involved by letting them handle inventory and order-processing.