Tiny new laptops from Dell and Fujitsu Computer Systems are taking flight, continuing a trend toward lighter-weight systems.
Fujitsu Computer Systems delivered the 2.2-pound LifeBook Q2010 on June 19, while Dell unveiled its Latitude D420, which weighs 3 pounds, on June 20.
The machines fit into the ultraportable category, which includes notebooks that weigh up to 4 pounds and have 12-inch screens.
Despite being somewhat limited by their size—the machines reside on the small side of ultraportable space and thus dont come with internal optical drives—the companies believe theyll find a market among traveling executives who value light weight over all else, including price and ultimate performance.
The lightweight LifeBook, which measures only .75-inches thick, offers a 12.1-inch screen. It also comes with a 1.2GHz Intel Core Solo Ultra Low Voltage processor from Intel, Wi-Fi 802.11 wireless and security measures including a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 1.2 and a fingerprint sensor.
The machine, which features a three-cell battery, starts at $1,999 when fitted with a 30GB hard drive, 512MB of RAM and a one-year warranty, according to Fujitsus Web site.
Dells Latitude D420, meanwhile, weighs 3 pounds but offers the ability to house built-in WWAN (wireless wide area networking) hardware for accessing networks from Cingular or Verizon Wireless.
The machine also offers a 12.1-inch wide-aspect display with a 1.06GHz low power Core Solo Ultra Low Voltage processor from Intel.
When fitted with 512MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive and a four-cell battery, the D420 starts at a little over $1,400, according to Dells Medium & Large Business online store.
Dell also offers options for a fingerprint reader, higher-energy six-cell and nine-cell batteries and external optical drives as well as docking. The company will offer a dual-core processor version of the machine later the summer of 2006, a representative said.
The two machines arrive at a time when the ultraportable category, helped along by overall demand for notebooks, is growing. The market for ultraportables has increased in part because of lower prices and consumer demand, analysts said.
Gateway, which began offering its 3-pound E-100M notebook on March 30, 2006, believes that combining light weight, wide screen displays, WWAN capabilities and long-lasting batteries will foster greater growth of ultraportables.
Such machines 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., during a recent interview with eWEEK.
“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.”
IDCs latest forecast projects that ultraportables, which saw worldwide unit shipments of about 5 million in 2005, will more than double by 2010, increasing to about 12 million units.
Worldwide notebook PC shipments in the same period are expected by the firm to rise from about 65 million in 2005 to about 148 million in 2010.
Thus, percentage-wise, even with the increase in shipments, ultraportables will still represent less than 10 percent of total notebook shipments by 2010, according to the firms numbers.
Ultraportables are not currently expected to upend the grip that “thin-and-light” machines, which weigh over 4 pounds and come with larger screens, enjoy on the market.
Thin-and-lights made up greater than 80 percent of shipments in 2005, according to IDC numbers.
But that doesnt mean ultraportables wont evolve, said Richard Shim, analyst with IDC in San Mateo, Calif.
“As the market continues to move toward mobile, manufacturers are starting to look at it a lot like the desktop market,” Shim said.
They believe “you have to develop more differentiated products. Were seeing that in thin-and-light [notebooks that weigh around 5 pounds] and in ultraportables.”
The ultraportable category is now breaking down into two class of notebooks, Shim said.
It includes “one thats the more traditional, slim and sexy type of device and the other is the device that includes the optical drive,” Shim said.
“I think, over time, optical [equipped models] will become the dominant form factor in the category.”
The lack of built-in optical has always been seen as one of the drawbacks of ultraportables, Shim said. Thus notebook makers have begun developing lightweight models with optical drives built in.
Several companies, such as Lenovo Group, have begun to offer both types of ultraportables.
Lenovo sells its Lenovo 3000 V100, which weighs about 4 pounds and offers a 12.1-inch wide screen display for about $1,100, alongside the 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.
Others, such as Dell, have made their more mainstream thin-and-light models smaller, closing the gap between those machines and their ultraportables.
Dells latest line of Latitudes includes a model D620, which comes with a 14.1-inch widescreen display, but weighs just over 4 pounds, sans optical drive. Its about 5 pounds with a drive and a six-cell battery installed, the company says.