Toshiba to roll out Bluetooth notebooks

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. is set for a Thursday roll out of two notebooks with integrated Bluetooth capabilities aimed at traveling business users.

The Tecra 9000 series and Portégé 4000 series will be the first notebooks to have both 802.11b and Bluetooth antennas embedded in the lid of the notebook, eliminating the need for a PC card, said Marc Tanguay, director of marketing for Toshiba America. The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc.'s (IEEE) 802.11b, also known as Wi-Fi, is a wireless standard offering an 11M-bps (bits-per-second) data rate in the 2.4GHz band.

"It gives the user the best of both worlds -- they can connect to corporate sites and access the Internet in airports," Tanguay said. "Then they can use Bluetooth to (synchronize) to PDAs and not have to travel with any cables." The built in 802.11b functionality the systems include is Cisco Systems Inc.'s Aironet 350 series technology.

Bluetooth is a wireless standard for short-distance communications, or a wireless PAN (personal area network), which connects devices at speeds of up to 1M bps (bits per second) at distances of up to 10 meters.

The notebooks are also the first aimed at the corporate market to incorporate a Secure Digital (SD) Media slot, so users can slide a Toshiba SD Memory card directly into the notebook, Tanguay said. SD cards are used in PDAs (personal digital assistants), digital cameras and MP3 players. A 128M-byte card can store up to four hours of music or 40 minutes of video.

"The SD Card also has I/O capabilities," Tanguay said. "In the future we're going to see third-party vendors developing (SD) cards that are just like PC Cards are today."

Weighing 5.3 pounds (2.4 kilograms), the Tecra 9000 series of notebooks has a 14-inch (35.5 centimeter) screen, DVD (digital versatile disc) player in the bay. The bay can also use six other Toshiba devices, including an extra battery, hard drive and a rewriteable CD-ROM drive. The Tecra also has an integrated 10/100 Ethernet port, infrared and an i.Link port. The i.Link interface, also known as IEEE 1394 and FireWire, is used to connect PCs to digital audio and video equipment.

The Portégé 4000 series is the latest in Toshiba's line of slim notebooks. The two-spindle Portégé weighs 4.4 pounds and features a 12-inch display. In the extra bay, the notebook can share the same components as the Tecra, including an extra hard drive or CD-ROM drive.

In addition to sharing components, both notebooks also share the same port replicator, which features a DVI (digital video interface) port and an i.Link port. By sharing components, IT departments can purchase a certain number of DVD drives and have employees use them when they're necessary, Tanguay said.

The notebooks will be available in the U.S. from Thursday, with worldwide availability to follow within the next two to three weeks, Tanguay said.

Toshiba will offer the models "built to order," along with several standard specifications. The Tecra 9000, with a 1.13GHz Pentium III processor-M (formerly know as Tualatin) from Intel Corp., 256M bytes of RAM a 30G-byte hard drive and a DVD/CD-RW drive is priced at US$3,229.

The Tecra 9000 with a 1GHz Pentium III processor-M, a 20G-byte hard drive and a DVD drive is priced at $2,729.

The Tecra 9000 with a 933MHz Pentium III processor-M, 128M bytes of RAM, a 10G-byte hard drive and a CD-ROM drive is priced at $2,424, Tanguay said.

The Portégé 4000 will also be offered built to order, as well as in two standard specifications. Both versions feature Intel's 750MHz Mobile Pentium III processor. One version has 256M bytes of RAM and a 30G-byte hard drive and will be priced at $2,429, while the second offering, which includes 128M bytes of memory and a 20G-byte hard drive, will be priced at $2,199.

The port replicator, which works with both notebooks, will be priced at $199, the company said.

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