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Notebooks sink to $1,300 level

Staying ahead of 1998's burgeoning trend of falling portable prices, Toshiba offers an entry-level model for $1,350.

Toshiba cut notebook prices for the second time this year, giving the longtime market leader an entry-level model for under $1,350 in an effort to stay abreast of 1998's burgeoning trend of falling portable prices.

The company also reduced prices on its mini-notebook, the Libretto, and its line of business PCs, a segment where Toshiba isn't among the top five vendors.

Most of the notebook price cuts apply to the higher-end Tecra family, and range from 10 to 20 percent.

A host of vendors, notably Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard, have sliced notebook prices since the year began, often attributing the cuts to the falling cost of components: processors, memory, LCD screens, and disk drives. Further price actions, as well as niche marketing techniques to reach small businesses and the education market, will become a feature of the portable market in 1998, according to analysts like International Data Corporation's Randy Guisto.

On the low end of the product line, a 10 percent reduction on the Satellite 220CDS lowers its cost to $1,349. The no-frills model comes with a 133-MHz Pentium processor, a 1.34GB hard disk, and a 12.1-inch passive-matrix screen.

Meanwhile, 133-MHz Pentium MMX Portege 300CT was cut 20 percent to $1,999, giving the company several models under the $2,000 price point. Two Satellite models are already priced below $2,000, the industry benchmark for low-cost portables.

In the Tecra family, the 740CDT with a 166-MHz Pentium MMX chip, 16MB of memory, a 2.0GB hard drive, and a 13.3-inch active-matrix display falls $650 to $2,849. Other Tecras were cut between six and ten percent.

The Libretto, introduced last June, falls to $1,299, a 13 percent reduction that follows a 25 percent cut last November. The small-scale but full-featured device incorporates an older, 75-MHz version of the mobile Pentium chip that powers the mini-notebook segment.

Six models of Toshiba's Equium line were reduced by as much as 10 percent, with the entry-level 5160D now costing $1,269. Toshiba's lowest-cost business system incorporates a 166-MHz Pentium MMX chip, 32MB of memory, a 2.0GB hard disk, and a CD-ROM drive.

The higher-end Equium 6200M, which incorporates a 266-MHz Penium II chip, falls to $1,979.

Toshiba's consumer line, the Infinia, is being phased out because the high-end, multimedia-oriented consumer PC has not been able to compete with the popularity of low-cost consumer PCs. Toshiba announced last November that it was getting out of the segment, and cut Infinia prices in early January.