Toshiba subnotebook U.S.-bound

Comdex Toshiba is expected to announce a new line of lightweight notebook computers for the U.S. market that give new meaning to "ultraportable."

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Comdex Toshiba is expected to announce on Monday a new line of lightweight notebook computers that give new meaning to the word "ultraportable."

The new subnotebook computer, which weighs around two pounds, will be unveiled in the United States at the Spring Comdex show in Atlanta, according to industry sources.

The diminutive devices are expected to feature a Pentium processor and run Windows 95, sources said, unlike recently introduced Windows CE-based handheld PC devices that use processors from either Hitachi or NEC.

Toshiba's new notebook will be similar in appearance and size to another company product called the Libretto. The Libretto, which is sold mainly in Japan, has a footprint equivalent to a sheet of 8.5-inch by 11-inch paper folded in half. It comes with a 75-MHz Pentium processor and a 810MB hard drive. The new devices will have a larger keyboard to accommodate the U.S. market and may have a larger screen than the Libretto's 6.1-inch display, sources said.

While larger than Windows CE handhelds, the new notebooks will be smaller and will offer less processing power than other ultralight notebooks such as Apple's 2400 and IBM's ThinkPad 560.

Historically, subnotebooks with reduced-size keyboards have not sold in very high volume. Also, recent market surveys indicate that the Windows CE devices are not yet generating significant interest among consumers who desire access to information while away from desktop PCs.

Some of the low enthusiasm for Windows CE devices in particular can be traced to the difficulty of typing on them, a pitfall Toshiba may be trying to avoid be introducing a portable computer that fits between the subnotebook and handheld devices.