Tandem Enlarges Its Family Of Risc Takers

After languishing for years as lower-priced machines stole its thunder, Tandem Computers Inc. hopes to recharge itself with a new line dubbed Himalaya. As with previous Tandem systems, Himalayas are designed to be fail-safe: Even if a hard drive is lost, for example, the whole machine keeps working. The new line completes Tandem's move to speedy, low-cost RISC (reduced instruction-set computing) chip technology from Silicon Graphics Inc.'s MIPS Technologies unit. And Tandem's basic operating software has been rewritten to work more like the Unix software used in engineering workstations.

The upshot is that Himalaya models will offer twice the performance of Tandem's previous high-end systems, the Cyclone series, for only half the price--from $25,000 to $339,000. That should enable Tandem, which has specialized in systems for critical jobs such as banking networks and reservation systems, to penetrate new markets, including interactive entertainment and mobile-computer networks. But until Himalaya starts shipping, in about five months, Tandem will likely have a tough time. On July 2, the company said June-quarter results will be lower than expected because customers held off purchases of its older models. Cost-cutting plans are expected to be announced at the end of July.

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