Compaq brings Digital into notebook fold

Compaq Computer Corp. last week announced two new offerings in its Armada notebook line, including the first notebook to come out of the Digital Equipment Corp. acquisition.

Compaq introduced the Armada 3500 as a replacement for its 4200 line of midrange lightweight portables, and it unveiled a rebrand of Digital's HiNote Ultra 2000 as the Armada 6500. The Armada 6500 is the first and only notebook in the Compaq line from Digital.

The HiNote Ultra 2000, an ultra-thin portable with a 14.1-inch display, was the only notebook that did not overlap with an existing Compaq product, said Mark Vena, director of mobile products at Compaq, Houston.

With the expansion unit, the 6500 is only 1.4 inches thick and weighs 5.9 pounds— a design that has found plenty of users in the federal market. "Digital has some pretty strong bases in [the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs]," said Gary Newgaard, director of federal sales and marketing for Compaq. "It's done pretty well in the marketplace.... There's a lot of appeal."

The 6500 is also the only Compaq notebook to offer Ethernet connectivity in addition to its 56 kilobits/sec data fax modem through the expansion of the unit and docking station. To "underscore the commitment to the Digital line," the architecture of the HiNote was not changed before the release, Vena said.

As such, the 6500 will only work with Digital docking stations until next year, when Compaq comes out with the first combined products, said Chet Pribonic, vice president and general manager of Compaq's Portable Division. The company already has brought together engineers from the Digital notebook line with the Compaq engineers to plan new offerings to retain and transition the sizable base of Digital customers. But for now, the only change is the use of the Compaq name and coloring rather than the Digital gray— which is still a significant step, analysts said.

"The most important thing is that it brings it into the Compaq fold and makes it look like the rest of their offerings," said Randy Giusto, mobile computing analyst for International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.

The brand-new 3500 is the lightest of the Armada offerings at 1.3 inches thick and 4.4 pounds on the base model, immediately fitting nicely into the Compaq line, said Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights, Mountain View, Calif. "They have noticed that there is an ultra-portable marketplace that the [IBM Corp.] ThinkPad 560 has really held a lock on," he said. "They've really done a nice job to meet the customers that are weight-sensitive." The weight increases with a larger 13.3-inch screen, but only to 4.6 pounds.

The 3500 includes a magnesium casing for the display panel, taking advantage of the durability of the material to protect the 12.1-inch screen. Unlike the Armada 7400, which Compaq announced early last month, the bottom of the 3500's casing is still plastic. But like the 7400, the 3500 is also compatible with the docking stations for the Armada 1500 and 1700 lines.

The 3500 does completely replace the popular 4000 series Armada, which will only be produced until the end of the year, Vena said. But there should be no problem convincing federal buyers to change to the new system, Newgaard said. "Typically, people are looking in a price range," he said. "They have a strong knowledge of what they're looking for."

Both systems should be on the General Services Administration schedule by October.

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AT A GLANCE

Armada 6500 standard configuration* 266 MHz Intel Pentium II processor* 64M of RAM* 6.4G hard drive * 24X CD-ROM drive * 14.1-inch screen* A Digital Video Disc drive, a second hard drive or an Iomega Zip drive is optional.GSA price: $4,909

Armada 3500 standard configuration* 266 MHz Pentium II processor* 32M of RAM* 4.1G hard drive* CD-ROM or DVD drive* Full-size keyboard* 64-bit video graphics * 12.1-inch displayGSA price: $3,239ervices Administration schedule by October.

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