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Gateway bulks up high-end notebook

The company will unveil a new top-of-the-line notebook Monday and throw in 90 days of free wireless Internet service in the bargain.

Gateway will unveil a new top-of-the-line notebook Monday and throw in 90 days of free wireless Internet service in the bargain.

The Solo 9550 will effectively serve as Gateway's showcase notebook. The deluxe configuration of the notebook will feature a 1.13GHz Pentium III processor, 512MB of memory and a 15.7-inch screen, the largest in the industry, according to Fred Kim, senior product manager for Gateway.

Between the hard drive and two disk drive bays, the machine can store up to 70GB of data.

"It's a beast," Kim said.

Like other PC manufacturers, Gateway is trying to promote wireless Internet connections. Customers who order 802.11b capabilities with the notebook will get 90 days of free wireless Internet service from MobileStar. The 802.11b radio technology lets consumers connect wirelessly to the Internet by transmitting through wired base stations.

Battered by low demand, declining profits and cutthroat desktop pricing, many manufacturers are putting more emphasis on notebooks, which can deliver higher profits.

Demand also continues for portables. For years, PC manufacturers and analysts have said that notebooks will begin to replace desktops in the corporate environment. Data is now coming in to support that thesis.

Notebooks accounted for more than 20 percent of the overall product mix last year and in the past several quarters have continued to creep up in popularity, according to market researcher IDC. Portables likely will add up to more than 25 percent of the market in the coming years.

"Notebooks accounted for nearly 24 percent of the (second-quarter PC) mix, which is up from both the quarter before and the same period last year," said IDC analyst Alan Promisel. "It's a pretty significant uptick."

The base configuration of the Solo 9550, which comes with a 933MHz Pentium III processor and a 15-inch screen, starts at $1,799. Including integrated 802.11b capabilities adds another $159.

The notebook will come with Windows Me, 98 or 2000. Gateway, however, will let current customers upgrade to Windows XP, when it comes out, for $15.