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COMDEX - Samsung re-enters global notebook market

COMDEX - Samsung re-enters global notebook market

Samsung Electronics, one of the world's largest electronics companies, is once again setting its sights on the global notebook market.

The company used last week's Comdex show to showcase a stylish new computer, the SensQ, that it plans to begin selling in three European markets in early 2001.

"With this computer, we want to go back into the international notebook market," said Sung In Cho, a spokeswoman for Samsung Electronics in Seoul. The machine, the company hopes, will be the first step to achieving its goal of exporting 1.3 million notebook computers by 2003.

The fruit of a development project that began in February 1999, the SensQ is about to go on sale in South Korea. A version in a champagne-gold-coloured case will retail for 3.8 million won ($US3338) and a metallic blue version will cost 4.6 million won.

Samsung said it plans to start international sales of the notebook in the UK, Germany and France early next year, but did not announce pricing for those markets.

The new computers contain either an Intel Pentium III 500MHz or Celeron 500MHz processor, a 12-inch TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD (liquid-crystal display) capable of XGA resolution (1024 x 768 pixels), main memory of 64MBs or 128MBs, a 10GB or 20GB hard disk drive and an MP3 player that can be operated without booting the PC. A Bluetooth low-power radio network adaptor is available as an option for the machines.

In designing the new notebook, the company paid just as much attention to the external styling of the machine as it did to the technology packed inside.

At just 19.8 millimetres thick, the machine is slightly thinner than an equivalent-size Vaio notebook from Sony - a source of pride for Samsung. "Our machine is a millimetre thinner than the Sony Vaio," said Cho. Sony's Vaio Note SR is 20.9 millimetres thick. At 1.35 kilograms, Samsung's SensQ and the Vaio SR weigh the same.

While stylish designs have been a major factor in Sony's successful entry into the notebook market, Samsung is likely to be forced to compete on price against the Japanese company and other major competitors if it wants to carve out a niche in the increasingly crowded market, analysts said.

"Samsung has a shot - if they can undercut Sony on price," said Tim Scannell, industry analyst at Mobile Insights.

As it manufactures three of the most price-sensitive components found in notebooks - the screen, memory and hard drive - Samsung has a better chance of succeeding than many others, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64, a US-based market research company.

Although the slick SensQ 760 in particular features a stylish design, Samsung can not rely on style alone to make it, he said"Samsung certainly does not have the image of Sony, but on the other hand, I don't know if anyone does," Brookwood said.

In the consumer segment in particular, pricing is a key factor, but the good news is that consumer sales are still growing faster than the overall market, he added.

Samsung Electronics' last foray into the global notebook computer market came in 1997 when it bought AST Research. Just five years earlier the company had been one of the world's top five personal computer makers although the Asian economic crisis, products that were late to market and problems with the purchase of Tandy's PC business meant the deal failed to live up to Samsung's expectations.

The South Korean company pulled the plug on AST and its global notebook PC sales efforts in early 1999 when it sold the AST brand name and the company's intellectual property to Beny Alagem, cofounder and former chairman and chief executive officer of Packard Bell NEC, who had hopes of resurrecting the brand.

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