Cheaper notebooks on their way, as mystery chip announcement looms

by Guy Kewney | posted on 02 April 2004

The market for end-of-line notebook PCs could be worth investigating this week. Emails from three PC makers to their distributors and sales teams show that they are expecting a "significant" announcement from Intel, and they will be using the occasion to upgrade models. There will be bargains on old models as a result.

Guy Kewney

Typical of the sort of deal that you'll be able to see, will be stock-shifting pricing on machines that have the bells, but not the whistles. Or, maybe, older bells, or the wrong whistles.

For example, look through the Samsung notebook range for notebooks with DVD drives, and pick out any that have DVD readers, not DVD writers. Expect the read-only models to be replaced with read and write models. And expect the new models to be announced from next Wednesday, when Intel unveils ... whatever it unveils.

Other notebook makers have warned distributors to prepare for new wireless variants.

Where current Centrino models are all 11 megabit (802.11b) standard models, and almost no variants come with the higher-speed 802.11g wireless, there are likely to be some faster offerings, and perhaps even some tri-standard models, including 802.11a "for the American market". Again, this could lead to some end-of-life stock clearances on 11b models.

The other, rather odd trend, will be for new models with smaller, not larger, hard disks. The experiment of offering PCs with 80 gigabyte drives hasn't proved popular with corporate buyers, because it encourages users to keep important company data on the laptop. This causes serious backup problems. And if backups aren't properly managed, vital records can be lost forever.

Hitachi's hard disk division is now focusing on 40G disks for notebooks, but with a new "drop-resistant" feature. According to Data Storage Today the Travelstar 4K40 is a 40 G drive which "is more able to withstand an accidental drop on the floor than previous versions." Rock Laroia, director of strategy said: "Bumps that might have caused data loss in earlier versions are tolerated by this product."

Reporter Erika Morphy quoted Laroia: "For the majority of notebook users, 40 GB remains a popular capacity point."

But the consequence is that a lot of 70GB and 80GB notebooks are going to be dropped from catalogues and sold off through distribution at reduced rates, especially in bulk. And a lot of new machines will be upgraded, with smaller hard drives.

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