March 17, 1998 5:40 PM PST

HP releases 3-pound notebook

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At the CeBit conference in Hannover, Germany today, Hewlett-Packard (HWP) took the wraps off of its Sojourn OmniBook, a three-pound notebook with a metallic case that measures less than an inch thick.

The ultraslim Sojourn is symbolic of HP's effort to revitalize its notebook business. Though HP struggled through the initial few years in the notebook market, beginning in early 1997, it revamped its design and sales efforts. This resulted in increased sales, according to various resellers and analysts.

In addition to the three-pound Sojourn, later this spring, HP will also come out with the OmniBook 4100, a series of Pentium II-based slim notebooks that will compete against the popular 560 series from IBM, according to sources. The first Pentium II processor for notebooks is slated to be announced in early April. HP has also announced a new smart card system for notebooks.

Various models of the 4100 OmniBooks will include DVD drives, extra-large 14-inch screens, and 266-MHz Pentium II chips. HP currently has an OmniBook 800 mini-notebook, but nothing that quite matches the thin-and-wide design of the IBM 560.

"We are the fastest growing notebook for medium to large corporations," claimed Tuan Tran, product line manager for HP.

The Sojourn, and the similar Pedion notebook from Mitsubishi, stand on the cutting edge of notebook designs and act as something of a technology showcase.

The thin form factor, for instance, comes as a result of a number of technological breakthroughs. The hard drive for the Sojourn measures only 8 millimeters thick, which is close to half the thickness of standard notebook hard drives.

For the battery, HP adopted a Lithium ion prismatic technology, which essentially allows the manufacturer to change the shape of the battery cells and make them thinner. Also, the inverter board, a power conduit for the screen that is traditionally incorporated into the monitor, is placed in the body of the notebook, which reduces size further, said Tran.

To make it more useful, the machine also comes with an "expansion slice", an ultraslim docking station that comes with a CD-ROM drive, floppy drive, and a spare battery that snaps on to the underside of the Sojourn. Together, the package measures only 1.5 inches thick and weighs just over five pounds, he said.

When folded shut, the Sojourn is about three-quarters of an inch thick. To prevent damage, the case is made of magnesium. The Sojourn comes with a 233-MHz Pentium MMX processor, 64MB of memory, a 1.0GB hard drive, and a hefty $6,000 price tag. "It is focused on executives and high level managers," HP's Tran said.

One of the chief differences between the Mitsushibi version and HP version is color. Mitsubishi's Pedion is gold. HP has opted for metallic blue.

HP and Mitsubishi developed the new form factor together. While Mitsubishi released its version of the notebook last year in Japan, HP delayed production because of less than satisfactory battery performance, sources said.

 

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