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Dell brings an ultra-portable to consumers

The PC maker introduces the Inspiron 2100, its first consumer-oriented model that weighs 3.4 pounds and is an inch thick.

    Dell Computer is bringing its slimmed-down laptop, popular with corporations, to consumers.

    On Wednesday, Dell introduced its first ultra-portable model in its Inspiron consumer and small business line. The Inspiron 2100 weighs in at 3.4 pounds. It is an inch thick, has a 12-inch screen and comes with Intel's recently introduced 700MHz mobile Pentium III.

    The $1,899 model includes 64MB of memory, a 5GB hard drive, a built-in modem and networking. CD-ROM, CD-rewritable, DVD and Zip drives can be added through an external media bay.

    "It's what our customers were asking for," Dell spokesman Tom Kehoe said. "With the direct relationship, it was easy for us to respond and bring it to them."

    Rival Gateway sells a similar model aimed at both professionals and consumers. The Solo 3350, which has 64MB of memory, a 6GB hard drive, Intel's 600MHz Pentium III and a 12-inch screen, sells for $1,999.

    Ultra-portables, which are slightly smaller than "thin-and-light" notebooks, are a growing segment of the laptop market.

    Frank Spindler, Intel's general manager, predicts that thin-and-light notebooks will account for 60 percent of notebook sales within a few years. Thin-and-light notebooks typically weigh about 4 pounds and have a 13-inch or larger screen.

    Ultra-portables weigh less than that and offer an 11- to 12-inch screen.

    Ultra-portables, also known as mini-notebooks, and the even smaller class of sub-notebooks, will make up another 10 percent of the market in a few years, Spindler predicts.

    The Inspiron 2100 is available by telephone order and will be on Dell's Web site at the end of the week, Kehoe said.