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HP jumps back into mini-notebooks

Hewlett-Packard touts the forthcoming OmniBook 900, which will feature Intel's "integrated" Pentium II chips for notebooks.

Hewlett-Packard will jump back into the mini-notebook market later this month when Intel releases new "integrated" Pentium II chips for notebooks.

Hewlett-Packard yesterday announced the OmniBook 900, a slim, 4-pound notebook that will take over the market niche once occupied by the defunct OmniBook 800. Starting at around $2,500, the OmniBook 900 will contain the most current Pentium II chips from Intel, according to HP.

Intel is slated to released Pentium II chips for notebooks running at between 300 MHz and 366 MHz and containing 256KB of integrated cache memory on January 25, as well as the first Celeron chips for low-end notebooks.

Although billed as a successor to the squat OmniBook 800, the OmniBook 900 seems to more acutely resemble a scaled-down version of a standard notebook, or even the magnesium-cased slimline notebooks, such as the Dell Latitude LT, that have been rolling out since late last year.

The OmniBook 900 will come with a 12-inch screen and a full-size keyboard, said Wayne Westly, an OmniBook product marketing manager. The machine's footprint, or base, is also similar in size to standard notebooks. The machine weighs about 4 pounds and measures 1.26 inches thick.

"It looks like the OmniBook's 4100 little brother," he said.

By contrast, the OmniBook 800 contained a 10-inch screen and a smaller-than-life-sized keyboard. Sub-notebooks such as the OmniBook 800 have sold well in Japan but have only enjoyed sporadic interest in the U.S.

While the OmniBook 900 is similar in shape and size to the Dell Latitude and Sony Vaio 505, there are differences, pointed out Westly. The OmniBook contains a Pentium II, while the other computers contain Pentium MMX chips. The OmniBook is also the only one that does not come in a magnesium case, and it weighs about a pound more.

The OmniBook 900 will be targeted at mobile professionals. HP is considering, but still has not entered, the consumer notebook segment, he added. HP has not made a commitment to building notebooks based around the Celeron chip. However, Westly added: "HP follows Intel's road map."