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Notebook race heats up

Compaq moves back into the number-three spot while Hitachi makes it into the top ten for the first time in the market for notebook PCs.

Compaq Computer (CPQ) moved back into the number-three spot while Hitachi made it into the top ten for the first time in the market for notebook PCs, according to third-quarter U.S. shipment numbers published by International Data Corporation.

Toshiba remained the number-one supplier of notebook PCs in the United States with a 26.1 percent share, while IBM held on to the number-two position with 11.5 percent, according to the IDC report.

Hitachi made its top-ten debut despite the fact that it established a notebook PC division in the United States only at the end of 1995. It owes its success to strength in the retail channel, IDC analyst Randy Giusto said. However, he cautioned that some companies that do well in retail based on shipment numbers also lose money because of the high rate of return for notebooks sold in this channel.

Apple Computer, which had seemed to be fading fast in the second quarter, moved up from eighth to sixth, according the report. This is because the company finally resumed shipments of its 5300 notebook, which had been plagued by delays and defects, Giusto said.

Texas Instruments slipped back to the number-four position because of Compaq's surge in sales with its new Armada line, but TI nevertheless saw growth of 170 percent over the same quarter last year.

Design trends for 1997 include thin and lightweight notebooks that weigh between 5 and 5-1/2 pounds and include bays for floppy drives and ultrathin CD-ROM drives. To date, these ultralight designs have excluded a built-in floppy and CD-ROM drive to economize on weight and real estate.

Other new features include extra-large 13-inch and 14-inch LCD screens and Universal Serial Bus ports.

Supply of large-display notebooks will continue to be a problem. "IDC expects that 12.1-inch TFT panels will be in short supply until mid-1997, therefore limiting further growth of the market. The market will remain in a high demand-supply constrained scenario for some time," the report said.