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An unprecedented battle for the home computer market is beginning.

In the 105 days until Christmas, computer industry marketers will spend more than $100 million on advertising to entice consumers.

Marketers are fighting for leadership in the sales boom to individuals, which software giant Microsoft Corp. estimates now accounts for 40% of personal computers sold in the U.S.

The stakes are high: IBM Corp., struggling for a comeback, next week will introduce the all-new Aptiva home line, after coming up short with its first two home models. Packard Bell Electronics, the reigning leader in mass-market PCs, is expected to field its first major ad campaign.

Compaq Computer Corp., trying to hold its No. 1 position in the overall PC market, will nearly double ad spending for its hot-selling Presario. Apple Computer will mount the first TV campaign ever for its home contender, Performa. And Intel Corp., the king of chips, will spend $40 million to promote its flagship Pentium.

But increasingly savvy consumers may be most focused on price. A price war begun by Compaq in late August is likely to escalate in coming months. Stores are packed with name-brand PCs using Intel's old 486 chips as well as closeouts.

An industry boom could be a bust for secondary marketers that can't compete with the ad and price wars being waged at the top.

"Definitely the goal is to gain market share at the expense of lesser players," said Gian Carlo Bisone, Compaq VP-North American marketing, noting that the top 10 marketers still command only a little more than 50% of the market in the fragmented industry.

Compaq is mounting an estimated $25 million to $30 million TV and print campaign, including four new Presario spots that start Sept. 19 and a commercial for its lightweight Aero that began Sept. 10. Compaq was the No. 1 PC brand in the first half of the year, and a strong fourth quarter could give it the top spot for the year.

On Sept. 19 IBM will introduce Aptiva, the first of a wholly revamped PC line it's unveiling this fall. The one-time leader slumped to a disastrous fourth place in sales in the first half.

Aptiva is IBM's third try for a home run after striking out with PCjr a decade ago and making little headway with PS/1. Aptiva is the first major product from the new regime-the management team led by IBM Chairman Louis V. Gerstner Jr., and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, awarded the company's $500 million worldwide ad account in May.

IBM will back Aptiva with a fast-paced, youth-oriented TV campaign breaking in late September. Big Blue's larger ad effort is expected to come a few weeks later with a campaign for new business PCs, featuring comedian Paul Reiser.

Apple, meanwhile, will move into fall with its first TV advertising for Performa, positioned as "the family Macintosh." The effort will be part of a broader campaign pushing the Macintosh line from BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles. Apple will spend $80 million to $100 million on U.S. advertising in the year beginning Oct. 1, up from $65 million in the current year.

Packard Bell, long reliant on retailer co-op ads, plans its first major campaign, spending "in the ballpark" of $15 million, according to Mal Ransom, VP-marketing.

Stein Robaire Helm, Los Angeles, is the agency.

Canon Computer Systems today begins a print campaign from Hajjar/Kaufman, Marina del Rey, Calif., featuring columnist William F. Buckley Jr. and attorney F. Lee Bailey.

But some buyers could wait until the first half of next year, when Microsoft will launch Windows 95. The much anticipated operating system will get the company's biggest ever marketing campaign.

Melanie Wells contributed to this story.

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