Future Stocks

Integrated portable systems for £450? Home computers for £35? These are some of the treats lying in store for micro buyers in four years' time, according to the research firm Frost and Sullivan.

"Two out of three microcomputers sold worldwide will be portable by 1987," says the company. This doesn't mean that it will take the likes of Apple, IBM and Torch four years to hit a handle to their machines, but that the days of the static deskbound system are numbered.

Frost and Sullivan's study, The Market and Competitive Environment for Portable Computers, is based on the US. It looks at machines selling for between $400 and $10,000 that can be configured as battery-operated hand-held or lap systems, briefcase units or integrated transportable systems.

While prices plummet, sales - particularly of micros in the 25 to 40lbs range - are set to soar, it says. Machines like the Compaq (not yet available in the UK) and the Hyperion (from Gulfstream and Anderson Jackson) are singled out as leaders of the boom, but the pressure on prices is likely to come mainly from systems such as the Kaypro range (distributed in the UK by CK Computers).

It estimates the current average price in this bracket as $2,089 (£1,350) and expects it to fall to £450 by 1987.

This is despite a tendency for retailers selling machines in the over-$1,000 range to stick to the list prices, leaving discounting to those who sell lower-priced systems. An encouraging sign is that they all identify a ceiling - beyond $4,000 products are "too expensive for the market".

Frost and Sullivan also spoke to users of "a portable 8-bit integrated portable". Almost half of these users said low price was the main reason for their choice; bundled software came next, and portability was third - but it came out as the most liked feature.

The survey took little account of developing technology, but it's safe to assume that the performance and capacity of portable micros are likely to improve, and that weights may be reduced at the same time.