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IBM touts new business notebooks

Big Blue's new line is targeted at small and medium-sized businesses, a crucial market for PC vendors looking to expand sales.

IBM introduced today a new, slimmer line of notebooks targeted at small and medium-sized businesses, a crucial yet unwieldy market for PC makers looking to expand sales.

This segment of the notebook arena is very competitive these days. Top-tier notebook suppliers such as IBM, Compaq Computer, and Hewlett-Packard are all looking to expand market share.

The market accounts for "45 percent of all purchases," according to Adalio Sanchez, general manager for IBM's ThinkPad product line. But the market is not an easy target: Dispersed throughout the United States are more than 7 million small and medium-sized businesses, according to estimates from PC makers such as Compaq.

The market is also extremely sensitive to price. Often, customer needs are met by cheaper, no-name "white box" brands sold locally.

Compaq, in particular, is pushing hard in this market with its small business Armada series of notebooks. Both IBM and Compaq notebooks, for instance, are featured at CompUSA business centers--smaller business-centric departments within CompUSA retail stores.

The 390 is the follow-on to IBM's 380 line but continues its heritage by offering just enough performance and features to satisfy small business customers who are typically less demanding than individual consumers and sophisticated corporate buyers. At 1.8-inches thick, the 390 is also approximately one-half inch thinner and lighter than its predecessor.

At the low end, the 390 Series model 20U is priced at $1,799. This model comes with a 233-MHz Pentium processor, 12.1-inch active matrix LCD screen, a 3.2GB hard drive, CD-ROM drive, and modem.

The high-end 70U packs in a large 14.1-inch active matrix display, a 266-MHz Pentium II processor, and a 4.3GB hard drive. This is priced at $2,999.

IBM said it is also offering package deals for small businesses "leveraging business centers at CompUSA...a turnkey kind of solution that we can offer in their business centers," said IBM's Sanchez.