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Dell, Gateway notebooks may lighten up

The announcements of the new notebooks are expected to come despite slowing shipments of ultra-portable notebooks by other companies.

Dell and Gateway are expected to launch new ultra-portable notebooks next month, sources said.

Dell is expected to announce a new Latitude notebook, dubbed the X200. The unit will weigh about 3 pounds and cost roughly $2,000, according to sources.

Around the same time, PC rival Gateway is expected to announce a similar notebook called the Solo 200.

Both companies declined to comment for this story.

The announcements of the new notebooks are expected to come despite slowing shipments of ultra-portable notebooks by other companies. Ultra-portables, once a high-growth segment of the notebook market, are becoming less popular as the economy continues to sag. They've tended to carry a premium price, which has muted their popularity as consumers look for more value.

In the third quarter of 2000, ultra-portables made up 9.2 percent of the total number of notebooks shipped in the United States, according to research firm IDC. However, by the fourth quarter of 2001, shipments of ultra-portables fell to 5.5 percent.

Still, shipments of notebooks have declined slower than their desktop counterparts.

Dell's Latitude X200 would be a new category for the Round Rock, Texas-based company. Dell is expected to continue to sell its Latitude C400, which is slightly bigger than the X200.

The X200 is expected to have just one spindle, which holds a data storage component, but it will likely be used with a docking station, which would allow owners to add more data peripherals. The docking station would add weight and bulk to the petite X200, which is meant to target executives who travel frequently and want just the barest essentials in their notebook, sources said.

Dell has in the past been more conservative in expanding into new markets, opting instead to wait for a market to become a volume business before offering a product. For example, the company decided to forgo the handheld device market, saying that there wasn't enough profit in it.

The company sells handhelds from Palm, Sony, Hewlett-Packard and Research in Motion, among others, through its Web site, but it has never marketed a handheld under its own brand name.

Solo 200
San Diego-based Gateway is expected to announce other new notebooks as well as a new naming sequence for its portable line, according to sources.

The Solo 200 will cost around $2,000 and will be very similar to its already available Solo 3450, sources said. The Solo 3450 uses Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, which requires at least 128MB of memory and a 20GB hard drive.

The Gateway and Dell units will be similar to one another, according to sources, and they were co-developed with Samsung, which recently has been trying to shed the perception that it's only a contract manufacturer. The Korean electronics maker is looking to the high-growth consumer-electronics market to bolster its sagging memory-chip business.

Samsung has also been a supplier of flat-panel monitors and liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), but the company is increasingly becoming a major name in the DVD player and cell phone markets.

Just over a year ago, Dell and Samsung said they would be involved in a $16 billion partnership where Samsung would provide Dell with memory components, LCDs, monitors and optical disk drives for Dell's line of computer products.

In related news, Intel is expected to launch new Pentium 4-M processors at an event in New York late next month, sources said.

The chipmaker will announce 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz Pentium 4-M processors and steep price cuts on the currently available 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz processors, according to sources. Faster speeds of the Pentium 4-M are also expected to be announced at the event.