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Panasonic aims at notebook niche

Panasonic will aim to make a splash in the U.S. notebook market with two undersized models that could arrive between February and April.

LAS VEGAS--Panasonic will aim to make a splash in the U.S. notebook market with two undersized models that could arrive between February and April.

The Japanese electronics company, which does not have a significant presence in the U.S. market, will sell one mini-notebook and one sub-notebook in an attempt to use these small form factors to capture consumer imagination. Panasonic's AL-N4 will compete in the mini-notebook market, while the AL-N2 will be part of the slightly larger sub-notebook segment.

The AL-N4 will feature a 120-MHz Pentium MMX processor, a chip Intel released in October that's specially designed for the proliferating mini-notebook market. It uses less power and generates less heat than the mobile Pentium commonly found in notebook PCs.

The AL-N4 will also come with a 1.6GB hard disk, 16MB of memory, and an 8.4-inch active-matrix screen. The unit will weigh 2.2 pounds and cost about $2,500.

The AL-N2 will feature a 166-MHz Pentium MMX chip, a 2.1GB hard drive, 32MB of memory, and a 10.4-inch active-matrix screen. Weighing 3 pounds, the Al-N2 will cost about $3,000.

In August, Panasonic debuted the first notebook PC to pack a DVD-ROM drive in an attempt to tap a multimedia niche, but other manufacturers quickly matched that introduction. Meanwhile, the CF-63's retail price of nearly $6,000 makes it unlikely to be a big seller. Panasonic also sells specially reinforced "ruggedized" notebooks into the industrial-use market, a comparatively small segment.