Tech 2000

Skinny Minis

In the notebook computer arena, thin is in. Notebook manufacturers from Toshiba to Dell to Sony are pushing new lines of ultra-slim notebooks called mini-notebooks. Mininotebooks tip the scales at around 3 pounds and boast decent processors and multimedia features. Some current examples: Dell's Latitude CS mininotebook (http://www.dell.com), Toshiba's Portégé 3110CT (http://www.toshiba.com) and IBM's Thinkpad 240 (http://www.ibm.com).

Still, while experts expect to see skinny minis gaining in popularity, they recognize they're not going to take the place of users' notebook and desktop computers. They remain more of a complement to other machines because they simply don't have enough oomph to stand on their own as complete computing solutions.

Before investing in these new models, take into consideration you'll be making some significant trade-offs for their small size and weight, Knox says. Generally, their screens are too small for presentation use, and their processors aren't up-to-speed to run many leading applications. Plus, the smaller-sized keyboard is typically very cramped and difficult to work on.

Most likely, these shortcomings will improve next year. Still, Knox isn't truly sold on the latest crop of mininotebooks. "Would I buy one for a small business?" he asks. "In a small enterprise, where there's not a lot of money to be spent, this is a secondary device. In most cases, you'll have to buy a desktop and one of these devices as well. You'll need both for the utmost storage, function and portability."

Knox says if you're a mobile user, the best way to go is with a standard laptop with a larger keyboard, better presentation features and a heftier processor to get your work done. But if you want something thin and light for occasional use in conjunction with your desktop computer, mininotebooks may be just the thing for you. These are truly niche products for people who travel often and don't need a full-featured notebook, yet still want something a little more substantial than a handheld PC or PDA.

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This article was originally published in the December 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Tech 2000.

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