Hitting a Nerve

By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2006-05-31 Print this article Print

Manufacturers such as Lenovo certainly hope they hit a nerve with their new machines. Lenovo executives in Raleigh, N.C., characterized the V100 as a no-compromise ultraportable, as it also offers options such as 100GB hard drives.
"We wanted to deliver a product that really caters to the segment…so [customers] get value—at good weight and a good price point," said Frank Kardonski, worldwide product manager for Lenovo 3000 products.
"We really feel that this is going to be a very fast-growing [market] segment and this is going to be a successful product." Lenovo will offer the V100 alongside its smaller ThinkPad X Series, which offers a standard aspect ratio 12.1-inch display and weighs between about 2.7 pounds and 3.5 pounds, sans an external optical drive. But even lighter-weight ultraportables may receive a boost, some PC executives have said. Gateway, which began offering its 3-pound E-100M notebook March 30, believes that the combination of light weight, wide screens, WWAN (wireless WAN) capabilities and longer-lasting batteries, will all work together to foster greater growth of ultraportables. Click here to read more about Gateways lightweight laptops. Ultraportables are "positioned for growth now. Its very reasonable to suggest that this segment could be twice as large as it is now," said William Diehl, vice president of product marketing at Gateway, in Irvine, Calif. "People are starting to understand the benefits of mobility," Diehl said. "When I say mobility, I mean form factor—thin and light [weight]—wireless—with Bluetooth, wireless LAN and wireless WAN—and, lastly, battery life. Wireless is useless if the battery doesnt work." Indeed, IDCs latest forecast projects that ultraportables, which saw worldwide unit shipments of about 5 million in 2005, will increase to about 11 million by 2010. But, even with the increase in shipments, the ultraportable category will still be under 10 percent of total notebook shipments by 2010. The market will be continue to dominated instead by so-called thin and light models, which have 14-inch or 15-inch screens. Still, given the trend illuminated by Lenovos V100 and Toshibas Tecra M6, there is potential for the ultraportable category to see greater-than-expected growth during IDCs forecast period, Shim said. IT could come in part because manufacturers have begun courting consumers more aggressively with ultraportables. The two new machines, though designed for businesses, have many consumer-like features, Shim said. Meanwhile, Gateway offers a consumer version of its E-100M, dubbed the NX100. "Were still looking at slightly higher prices and, realistically, these things have always been viewed as sort of secondary systems," Shim said. Although, "Adding optical to the box changes that scenario. But many users will still want a bigger machine." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET News.com, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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