January 5, 2006 5:00 PM PST

Gateway shoehorns Duo into notebook design

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LAS VEGAS--Gateway won't have to change much about the designs of some of its most popular notebooks to accommodate Intel's new dual-core chips. That's good news for anyone who complained about power cords from one notebook not working with another.

The Gateway M465 and M685 notebooks are based on the same design as the existing M460 and M680 notebooks, although the Duo dual-core chip in the new notebooks has a higher thermal ceiling than do existing chips, said Chad McDonald, product director for notebooks at Gateway.

Although consumers thrive on change, IT managers don't particularly like it, said McDonald. When notebook designs change, often the power cords, batteries and other peripherals do, too. Then components from one model can't be used on the next.

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"If you bought 1,000 Gateway-680 notebooks last year and you want to buy 1,000 more, it's nice to know you can inventory 1,000 batteries," he said.

Intel is also overseeing an effort to standardize components like power supplies for notebooks to simplify part swapping. A technician also won't have to learn the nuances of a new design, which takes time.

These notebooks will be targeted to businesses, but similar versions will be sold under the NX560 and NX860 names in the consumer market and other model numbers in other markets. For example, the M465 will be the roughly the same as the NX560.

Gateway was able to keep the design similar because it had enough internal room in the chassis to install additional and different components to prevent potential overheating problems. On average, the dual-core chips consume about the same amount of power as current single core chips, which means they will dissipate equivalent amounts of heat. When performing at their limit, however, the dual-core chips consume more power, which requires the additional cooling insurance.

The new notebooks come as Gateway is setting out to expand into the corporate market. At present, the company serves mostly consumers and, in the business segment, small businesses, government agencies and schools.

The corporate market, however, has changed over the last year. Dell is not growing as fast as it once was and has been hurt a bit by consumer satisfaction ratings, McDonald said. Customers also have questions about Lenovo, which changed CEOs last month in a surprise move.

Gateway, meanwhile, is turning a profit again now that it is well into its postmerger life with eMachines. The company reported a net income of $15.1 million in the third quarter, compared with a $59 million dollar loss (including restructuring costs) in the same period a year before. Gateway also grew 35.2 percent in the third quarter in terms of unit shipments, a reversal of the situation a few years ago when Gateway shipments steadily dropped every quarter.

"There are some question marks in the industry that weren't there in the past," McDonald said. "And we are in a hell of a lot better position than we were in the past."

Notebooks are one of the hot topics at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week. Intel CEO Paul Otellini formally announced the Duo and Solo brands of notebook chips. Several manufacturers pledged to come out with laptops containing the chips this month.

Gateway will deliver news about new consumer notebooks in about two months, McDonald added. One trend to watch for this year: the declining price of 14-inch LCD panels will lead to a number of lightweight notebooks with screens that size. Often, light notebooks have 12- and 13-inch screens.

"You are going to see products at 5 pounds with 14.1-inch screens," said McDonald.

 

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