NEC ships Crusoe in all-day laptops

Targeting the mobile workforce, NEC Corp. on Monday introduced two lightweight notebook computers powered by Transmeta Corp.'s low-power Crusoe processor, the NEC Versa DayLite and Versa UltraLite.

Using a combination of the low-power chip and a non-illuminated screen, the Versa DayLite can run what NEC officials called "everyday applications" for up to eight hours on one battery. With a 600MHz Crusoe processor, a 10.4-inch reflective LCD screen, and a USB-attached external CD-ROM and external floppy disk drive, the Versa Daylight retails at US$2,499.

The Versa UltraLite also incorporates a 600MHz Crusoe chip but offers a standard back-lit 10.4-inch display. NEC officials said the Versa UltraLite can run applications such as word processing, spreadsheet computation, e-mail, and Internet browsing for around five hours on a single charge. It comes with similar features and the same sticker price as the Versa DayLite.

NEC officials are billing the two new laptops as the first Crusoe-powered, enterprise-level portables to hit the U.S. market. Crusoe is a non-Intel architecture chip that uses software emulation to calculate more efficiently, according to Transmeta, headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif.

In the past year, Crusoe-powered laptops from companies such as Fujitsu and Sony have enjoyed steady adoption in Asia, according to those familiar with the market.

Last fall, U.S. computer manufacturers IBM Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp. almost simultaneously decided not to offer Crusoe-powered laptops. Sources close to both IBM and Compaq cited less-than-adequate performance from Crusoe as a reason the two companies decided against offering the Transmeta chip in their products.

Undaunted, Transmeta officials have repeatedly said that the Crusoe processor is meant for truly mobile users seeking maximum battery life, and not those looking for the performance of laptops categorized as desktop PC replacements.

In other laptop news, both Dell Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. on Monday rolled out upgrades to their laptop lines.

The Dell Inspiron 8000 is now available with a 1GHz Mobile Pentium III processor from Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel. Designed to offer a lavish mobile computing experience, the new Inspiron packs a 15-inch display, a combo DVD/CD-RW drive, a 48GB hard drive, an integrated wireless antenna, personalized color palm rests, and built-in Harmon-Kardon Odessey2 speakers. Prices start at just over $2,000, according to Dell.

HP on Monday launched new models of its Pavilion n5300 and OmniBook XP3 laptop family.

The consumer-targeted Pavilion n5300 series now features models with sporty silver display covers, 8x DVD-ROM drives, and up to a 900MHz Mobile Pentium processor, starting at just over $1,200, according to HP officials.

HP also gave its OmniBook line a speed bump with the availability of a 900MHz PIII, adding DVD/CD-RW options in the process. Aimed at business users, the upgraded OmniBooks range from $1,200 to $2,699, officials said.

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