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Traveling desktops.

Over the years the lines have blurred among various models of battery-powered portable computers. Today it is a given that business executives, engineers and other traveling professionals need to be able to bring their desktops out of the office and onto the road.

But with so many portable computer offerings, selecting a machine that best suits one's needs isn't always easy. The mobile professional is asking, Do I need the more powerful, but bulkier laptop? With the "fit-in-the-briefcase" notebook do the job? Can a palmtop provide enough computing power?

To help make these distinctions clearer, laptop-computer manufacturers, such as IBM Corp., White Plains, N.Y.; NEC Technologies Inc., Boxborough, Mass. and Zenith Data Systems, Buffalo Grove, Ill. have taken their machines to heights only dreamed of in the past. How? They are building into laptop machines such technologies as color graphics, 486 processing power and networking capabilities.

Manufacturers are aware that the growth of notebooks is outpacing laptops and are gearing their products to a more specialized user--one who requires the capability of a virtual workstation for engineering or color-imaging applications while traveling to client sites or data collection points.

Market research company BIS Strategic Decisions, based in Norwell, Mass., expects that the laptop share of the portable computer market will be a mere 10% by 1995, compared with the hefty 81% of the portable market it had in 1990. Despite this anticipated slower growth, BIS expects the laptop segment of the market to be worth $1.6 billion in 1995.

The line of demarcation between laptops and notebooks is 7 lbs. Machines that weigh more are regarded as laptops; notebooks weigh under 7 lbs. Laptops typically have a form factor of 12-x-14 inches, while notebooks are the size of an 8-x-11-inch sheet of paper, so they fit handily in a briefcase. Another factor is cost. Laptops typically cost $4,000 or more; notebooks generally fall below the $2,000 mark.

The ultimate difference is the greater speed and power of laptops. Such distinctions could cause the laptop-computer market to increase from 1.5 million units sold nationwide in 1991 to 2 million units sold in 1995, according to market research company Dataquest Inc., based in San Jose, Calif.

NEC Technologies is a leader in the use of colorgraphics applications for laptops with its ProSpeed 486SX/C. The ProSpeed 486SX/C has an active color matrix screen and supports 256 colors. It weighs in at 16.8 lbs. and provides internal expansion for networking, imaging and engineering applications running at 20 MHz on its 486SX processor. The ProSpeed 486SX/C offers Windows 3.0 and MS-DOS 5.0 as standard operating environments.

Zenith Data Systems (ZDS) likens its SupersPort 486DX to workstations, the powerful desktop computers used principally in engineering applications. The laptop has a 486 processor, operates at 25 MHz and weighs in at 15 lbs. It has a full array of ports for expandability and can be connected to an optional desktop docking unit.

ZDS dubs its system as the "first battery-operable workstation." Windows 3.0 and MS-DOS 5.0 are preinstalled on the laptop's hard drive. A pointing device is located conveniently below the space bar of the keyboard to provide mouselike operation without requiring additional space. The retail price of the SupersPort 486DX is $7,499.

IBM Corp. has entered the laptop arena with a takeoff of one of its popular models--the Personal System/2. "The PS/2 L40 SX is a light, portable, battery-operated system as powerful as the PC sitting on PS/2 users' desks," says IBM vice president and general manager, personal systems, James A. Cannavino.

The 386SX laptop computer has a full-size keyboard and a monitoring system that displays the status of internal functions (i.e., battery life). PS/2 L40 SX users may purchase such options as a combination fax/modem, pointing device and car battery adapter. The PS/2 L40 SX retails for $3,645.

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Irvine, Calif., which introduced its first portable computer in 1986, offers two high-end color laptops--the T3200SXC and the T5200C. Both units match the functionality of most desktop computers, but maintain the advantage of portability.

The T3200SXC, which runs on a 20 MHz 386SX processor, weighs 17 lbs. and has 1 MB of memory expandable to 13 MB plus two internal IBM compatible expansion slots. It retails for $7,249. Toshiba's T5200C color portable computer is driven by a 20 MHz 386 processor and includes 2 MB of main memory. It retails for $7,599 and weighs 18.7 lbs.

Laptop-computer enthusiasts can continue to anticipate dynamic changes in laptop technology, including longer battery life and increased speed and storage capacity. While notebooks geared to the less demanding user are here to stay, manufacturers are ensuring that laptops will continue to enjoy a significant niche in the computer industry.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Greene, Marvin
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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