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Sony releases first business laptop

The consumer electronics giant takes aim at small and medium-sized businesses for the first time, while Toshiba releases a notebook with 512MB of memory.

Two Japanese manufacturers known for their notebooks are putting on a full-court press to try to grab a bigger hunk of the fourth-quarter pie.

While the prospects for the PC market remain gloomy, especially on the desktop side, specific niches on the notebook side may still stand a chance. "If there is a silver lining in the PC market, it will be notebooks," IDC analyst Alan Promisel said Monday.

Sony's notebooks have already been successful in the consumer market. But the company has been looking for new areas of growth, and this summer it announced a deal with technology product distributor TechData to address small to medium-sized businesses. On Monday, the consumer electronics giant announced three notebooks as part of that effort.

On Tuesday, Toshiba plans to announce new Satellite notebooks. The Satellite line has always brought in a significant part of Toshiba's business, accounting for about 50 percent of the company's notebook shipments. But now more than ever, the company is trying to draw in more consumers. The Satellite line is sold in retail stores and through resellers.

"The retail space has been very competitive of late, and notebooks have almost become a commodity," said Carl Pinto, Toshiba's director of notebook marketing. "We have to differentiate ourselves more, and we're doing that by taking multimedia and design to the next level."

Sony's three new notebooks come with service packages catered toward businesses, 256MB of memory, Memory Stick flash memory slots and combination DVD-ROM/CD-rewritable drives.

The $3,500 Vaio PCG-GR290 features a 1.2GHz Pentium III-M mobile processor, a 40GB hard drive and a 15-inch screen. The $2,700 Vaio PCG-GR270 comes with a 1GHz Pentium III-M, a 30GB hard drive and a 15-inch screen. The $2,200 Vaio PCG-GR250 offers a 1GHz Pentium III-M, a 20GB hard drive and a 14.1-inch display.

The Pentium III-M, which was introduced this summer, offers more processing power and less energy consumption than previous generations of mobile chips.

Vaio buyers can select from Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Home Edition. The notebooks will be available at the end of the month.

Toshiba Satellite 5005 All of the new Toshiba notebooks come with at least 256MB of memory, and one offers with a whopping 512MB of memory. Memory is extremely inexpensive these days and PC makers are loading their systems up.

The 5005-S504 line replaces the 2800 series as the high-end multimedia notebook. The $2,009 model features 512MB of memory, a 1.1GHz Pentium III processor, a 30GB hard drive, a 15-inch display and a combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. The unit also offers a sound system with a built-in subwoofer, as well as Secure Digital and SmartMedia flash memory slots for downloading files from digital cameras and handheld computers. The 5005-S504 comes with Windows XP Home Edition.

Toshiba also refreshed its 3000 and 1800 series notebooks. The 3000 series includes the only Satellite notebook that uses Intel's Pentium III-M processor. Pentium III-M chips will move into all the Satellite notebooks in the next refresh of the line, slated for the first quarter.

The 3000 series comes with a 1GHz Pentium III processor, a 20GB hard drive, a 14.1-inch display, a combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive and a SmartMedia slot. The $1,699 model features Windows XP Home Edition, while the $1,779 unit comes with Windows XP Professional.

The 1800 series offers three models with 20GB hard drives in common. The $1,799 model comes with a 1.1GHz Pentium III processor, a 15-inch screen, a combo DVD/CD-RW drive and Windows XP Home Edition. The $1,399 model comes with a 1GHz Pentium III processor, a 14.1-inch screen, a DVD-ROM drive and Windows XP Home Edition. For another $80, it features Windows XP Professional instead. The $1,199 model offers a 1GHz Intel Celeron processor, a 13.3-inch screen, a DVD-ROM drive and Windows XP Home Edition. For $30 more, it comes with Windows XP Professional instead.

All the Toshiba notebooks will be available in retail stores by mid-October.