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(Nikkei BP Group)

(No.1 High-Tech News Site in Japanese)

  • Year-End Sales Season to Feature More Space-Saving PCs
  • December 7, 1998 (TOKYO) -- Japan's year-end sales season will feature many space-saving desktop personal computer models released since the autumn by major PC makers.
    A year ago, only Hitachi Ltd. and Fujitsu Ltd. offered the space-saving PC models. Hitachi had been focusing on such space-saving models and Fujitsu offered its Pliche Series.

    However, prior to the approaching year-end sales season this year, most leading PC manufacturers started offering their own versions of space-saving PCs (See chart).

    NEC Corp. announced 10 models in its ValueStar NX series for general consumers. Of those, eight models are space-saving types. NEC is not marketing any traditional box-type desktop models, and it reduced the number of new mini-tower models.

    Fujitsu introduced space-saving PCs using a compact main body, in addition to conventional types with embedded liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors and all-in-one types.

    Also, IBM Japan Ltd., Compaq Computer K.K. and Sony Corp. started selling such space-saving PCs with an LCD screen.

    Space-Saving Models to Dominate Desktop Market

    In Japan, where house and office space is often quite limited, huge demand is seen for small and space-saving PC models. This has stimulated brisk sales of notebook PCs. However, notebook models are more expensive than desktop PCs, and thus some general users could not afford to buy them so easily.

    In the past year an increasing number of space-saving desktop PC models have been introduced. Many new desktop models are available in part due to the sharp drop in prices of LCDs in the second half of 1998 as well as the releases of new microprocessors with better performances. This has enabled PC makers to offer smaller-sized PCs with specifications that match the conventional box-type desktop models.

    Many industry observers have said that space-saving PCs will soon dominate the PC market. In the summer, for example, NEC's sales of desktop models with a CRT accounted for 44 percent of its total sales, desktops equipped with an LCD monitor (space-saving type) 10 percent and notebook PCs 46 percent, a NEC spokesman said.

    "In the future, the percentages will likely be 30 percent for desktops, 30 percent for desktops equipped with an LCD monitor and 40 percent for notebooks," said Yoshi Takayama, executive vice president of NEC.

    "Space-saving models are likely to represent nearly half of sales of desktop models in the future," said Koyo Matsuo, general manager of Fujitsu's personal products marketing division.

    Fujitsu has seen brisk shipments of conventional box-type desktop models and micro-tower models.

    More Compact LCD Models Available

    Some new models carry the space-saving character to extremes, to impress users with their compact appearance. NEC's boxless model is one such example.

    With the boxless model, the motherboard, CD-ROM drive and a floppy disk drive are housed in the LCD monitor stand. It looks like an LCD monitor with a relatively large stand. Although their dimensions are almost the same, NEC's version appears more compact than Hitachi's Prius.

    NEC made its product compact by adopting components designed for notebook PCs. The boxless model uses an Intel Corp. Mobile Pentium II microprocessor as well as thin floppy and CD-ROM drives designed for notebook PCs, and it has a slot for a PC card instead of a PCI slot.

    However, the boxless model does not have a motherboard designed for existing notebook PCs. NEC made a motherboard specifically for the boxless model utilizing design technology for desktop models.

    The disadvantage of NEC's boxless model is its retail price of around 400,000 yen (US$3,300). The price is 50,000 yen (US$410) more expensive than Hitachi's Prius and other models. Moreover, its price performance is not as high because it uses a 266MHz Mobile Pentium II microprocessor.

    More Models with Celeron Microprocessor

    Another trend for the new models released in the autumn and winter is that more PCs are equipped with Intel Celeron microprocessors.

    When the Celeron chip without cache (code name: Convington) was introduced, only Compaq decided to utilize the chip among major PC makers.

    However, a new version of Celeron with a 128-kilobyte built-in secondary cache is now used by direct-sales PC vendors such as Dell Computer Corp. of Japan and Gateway 2000 Japan Inc., as well as NEC, Fujitsu and Hitachi.

    Among the models released this autumn and winter, more computer makers decided to utilize the Celeron and the K6-2 of Advanced Micro Devices Inc. of the United States for their entry-level PC models.

    Nikkei Byte selected four models equipped with Celeron 333MHz or 350MHz K6-2 microprocessors and released since the autumn, and conducted 12 benchmark tests on those PCs.

    The test results show that models equipped with K6-2 chips are generally slightly superior to Celeron 333MHz-equipped models in performance.

    Nikkei Byte said that the disparity in performance is attributed to a difference in frequency at the level of the external bus. The external bus frequency for the K6-2 is higher than that for the Celeron. On the contrary, the speed of accessing the secondary cache is slower for the K6-2.

    Not much of a disparity was seen in the overall performance of the PCs resulting from different performances of their chipsets, the magazine concluded.

    Chart: History of Dominant Desktop PCs in the Market Sold by Major PC Makers
    Models colored in pink shown in the graph indicate that the models also have a version with an LCD monitor.
    The numbers in parentheses indicate the models equipped with LCD monitors.
    *1) Digital interface for an LCD monitor is standard,
    with an option for a 14.1-in. thin-film transistor LCD monitor.

    (return to news)

    Related story: NEC Focuses on Space-Saving Computers, PC Sales Manager Says

    (Takayuki Tsurumi, Staff Editor, Nikkei Byte)

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    Updated: Fri Dec 4 15:58:26 1998 PDT