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Micron, Samsung partner on notebooks

If you buy a Micron notebook from now on, you may actually be buying a Samsung.

If you buy a Micron notebook from now on, you may actually be buying a Samsung.

Micron Electronics has signed an agreement with Samsung under which the Korean electronics giant will serve as the notebook manufacturing arm for the Nampa, Idaho-based PC maker. The TransPort ZX, a new notebook line being released today, is the first Samsung-made Micron notebook, said Jeff Moeser, vice president of product development at Micron.

The deal is the latest in a series of high-profile deals for Samsung. Earlier this year, Samsung Electronics, the PC arm of the Samsung Group, received a $100 million investment from Apple and a $200 million investment from Dell Computer that was part of a larger $8.5 billion Dell-Samsung alliance. Under both deals, the investments serve to guarantee a more steady flow of components, especially flat-panel displays which have been in short supply.

The alliance also underscores an increasing dichotomy between manufacturers and marketers in the PC industry. Samsung actually retreated from the U.S. notebook market about 18 months ago, according to Moeser. Nonetheless, despite the retreat, Samsung potentially will play a more crucial role in the notebook market in the future because of these component-manufacturing deals.

IBM, which lost close to a billion dollars on PCs last year, signed a massive component deal with Dell earlier this year.

By the same token, the deal will allow Micron to move more quickly in the notebook market. Early next year, the company will release a 5-pound portable that will measure about an inch thick, designed partly by Samsung, said Moeser. Samsung plans to come out with 16-inch monitors for notebooks in the middle of next year, which Micron will likely adopt rapidly.

"It lays a base for our future," said Moeser. "With this partner, we can develop a 'tweener' product." The "tweener"--or between--product referred to is the thinner, lighter notebook coming next year.

Costs will also likely drop. In the past, Micron depended on two Taiwanese manufacturers for its notebooks. Although Moeser did not state any complaints with these partners, Samsung is larger and can produce products for less.

The TransPort ZX, released today, will replace Micron's TransPort NX. The new systems will come with Celeron or Pentium II processors and 14- or 15-inch monitors. The systems start at $2,299. Pentium III versions will come out in January, according to the company.

As always, customers will be able to custom configure the notebook. Samsung ships "bare-bones" systems to Micron. In turn, Micron inserts the memory, hard drive and processor to customer specifications.