Next-generation `thin and wide' notebooks due by midyear

Rohit Khare (
Wed, 31 Jan 96 15:24:21 -0500

By Brooke Crothers and Ed Scannell

Posted at 11:13 AM PT, Jan 31, 1996

A wave of notebooks based on a radically different "thin and wide" footprint
is due to arrive by midyear from major vendors such as Compaq Computer Corp.,
IBM, Texas Instruments Inc., and Digital Equipment Corp.

This new genre of ultraslim notebooks preserves the lightness of traditional
subnotebooks but -- because of wider, longer form factors -- will allow
corporations to replace desktop PCs with portables sporting 12-inch and
13-inch LCDs and large keyboards that can be easily employed both in the
office and on the road, sources said.

Most offerings will be 1 inch high and weigh between 4 and 5 pounds, a
subnotebook-class weight, industry sources said.

The new designs will fall in the middle to high end of vendors' lineups and
cost between US$3,000 and $5,000, depending on the processor class, said Randy
Giusto, an analyst with International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass. The
systems with the largest LCDs may cost more than $5,000, he said.

Many of these systems will be built around the 100-, 120- and 133-MHz Intel
Mobile Pentium processors. Intel Corp. is expected to unveil the 100-MHz chip
next week and the 133-MHz in March.

Compaq will introduce a new line of midrange to high-end notebooks in midyear
that uses this form factor, said Michael Winkler, senior vice president at
Compaq's Portable Computer division.

These notebooks will have large LCDs, midrange and high-end Pentium
processors, and long battery life and will be lightweight and highly modular,
Winkler said.

"[They] will sacrifice nothing in performance," Winkler added.

Vendors have arrived at these designs after extensive research.

"We did some focus groups and found that users weren't putting these things
[subnotebooks] in briefcases but carrying them around in separate notebook
bags," one industry source said.

This means the slightly smaller size of today's subnotebooks hasn't been a
critical factor.

"As long as it's light: That's what really matters," the source added.

TI also has an effort under way to bring out notebooks with this design, said
a source close to the company.

This effort is separate from its next-generation Eclipse line of notebooks,
the source said, and will feature full-size keyboards and large LCDs.

Meanwhile, Digital this year will upgrade its line of slim HiNote Ultra
notebooks with a design that is 1.1 inches high, weighs less than 4 pounds,
and has a 10.4-inch active-matrix LCD. The company will move to a 12.1-inch
LCD later in the year for this line, said a source familiar with the company's

IBM is also working on a slimmed-down Pentium notebook that will be 1 inch
thick and weigh approximately 5 pounds.

Expected to be delivered sometime in 1996, the system will incorporate a
12.1-inch screen and come with an external floppy drive, company officials
confirmed last week.

IBM is also considering incorporating a 13.3-inch LCD into some of its new
notebooks by the end of next year, the company said.

Other players expected to follow suit with similar systems include Dell
Computer Corp. and Acer America Corp.

"This is what customers want: large displays and full-size keyboards," said
David Lunsford, director of Dell's advanced technology group. Lunsford did not
spell out any specific Dell plans but said this is where a critical segment
of the notebook market is headed.

The need for lightweight, thin notebooks may also be providing an impetus for
new motherboards.

MicroModule Systems, in San Jose, Calif., is working on notebook motherboard
designs, scheduled to ship in the third quarter of this year, that would fit
into this form factor, company officials said last week.

Intel Corp. is moving forward with plans for a notebook CPU board that will
plug in to a standardized socket to make notebook systems less costly to
build, an Intel official said last week.

The company was originally thinking about building a few separate modules for
different notebook subsystems but has decided to come out with a CPU module
that will only contain the processor, Level 1 cache, and core logic.

Instead of doing all the modules at once, Intel has decided to adopt a
strategy of "crawl, walk and run," the official said.

In the second quarter, Intel will likely have something definite to say about
the board itself, the official added.