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NEC to sell mini-notebook in U.S.

NEC plans to start selling a mini-notebook through its affiliate Packard Bell NEC, beginning with the business year starting in April 1998.

Japan-based NEC Computer (NIPNY) said it plans to start selling a mini-notebook in the U.S. through its affiliate Packard Bell NEC.

NEC will be the latest company to join a parade of vendors offering a product that previously was all but nonexistent in the U.S.

In addition to reduced-size keyboards, the new breed of mini-notebooks typically use the Windows 95 operating system and screens that are smaller than those found on standard notebooks.

Prior to the June introduction of Toshiba's Libretto, mini-notebooks with reduced-size keyboards had not sold in very high numbers in the U.S. market, mostly due to the difficulty of typing on them. But so far, the Libretto appears to have been well received at some retail outlets.

Since then, Mitsubishi has started selling the Amity CN, which is a Windows 95-based machine that comes with a 133-MHz Pentium and a 7.5-inch color display. The Libretto has a 120-MHz MMX Pentium and 6.1-inch color display.

Hitachi also recently jumped into the ring with the VisionBook Traveller, which has a 133-MHz MMX Pentium processor and an 8.4-inch screen.

NEC aims to sell about 30,000 units per month of the mini-notebook, according to a company official. The company has not yet made a final decision on the product's price or when sales will start, but the product could arrive as soon as April 1998.

The PCs, called Mobio NX in Japan, measure 21 cm by 14.1 cm, the spokesman said. He said there are two models, one weighing 790 grams and the other 800 grams.

Reuters contributed to this report.