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Hitachi downsizes desktop

Hitachi merges desktop and portable features into one unit, offering a 22-pound, "all-in-one" package.

Hitachi PC announced it will merge desktop and portable features into one unit today, offering a 22-pound, "all-in-one" package that is likely to be duplicated by other vendors in the coming weeks.

Hitachi's VisionDesk LCD, expected to launch in early 1998, will carry a 233-MHz Pentium with MMX capabilities, a 4.3GB hard drive, 32MB of synchronous DRAM, a 20X CD-ROM drive, and a 13.3-inch active-matrix screen with 1024-by-768-pixel resolution. Its price is expected to range between $3,299 and $3,599.

Two industry analysts said that the jury is out on whether there really will be demand for such a machine, but that in any event, Hitachi's move is a sign of things to come.

"The fact is that this kind of design is going to be pursued not only by Hitachi but others as well, and could eventually change the way desktops look, especially in corporate markets," said Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies in San Jose, California.

The premise behind the move, he added, is to marry the mobile features of laptops to the power and price advantages of desktops. He said he expected three separate companies to announce similar products soon.

In addition to its other offerings, the VisionDesk carries built-in speakers, a U.S. Robotics 56-kbps modem, the ability to seamlessly plug into local area networks, and an infrared port that supports wireless features.

But despite the richness of the offerings and the pared-down size, both Bajarin and Nathan Nuttall, an analyst at Sherwood Research in Wellesley, Massachusetts, said they expected the market for such a product to remain relatively small.

"I just hope [Hitachi] has reasonably conservative sales expectations," said Nuttall. "I can't imagine that there are that many people out there in a corporate environment that are moving one machine between multiple people and don't actually want it to be a portable PC."