One of the biggest names in consumer electronics says it will try to push its way into the highly-competitive laptop market this summer.

JVC Canada said it is now deciding on an IT distributor and a big-box retailer to carry its Mobile Mini Note PC, an ultra-portable notebook for business

users. The unit has an 8.9-inch screen, a Pentium M-ULV processor, a CD-RW drive and weighs about 1,500g (3 lbs. 4 oz.)

“”We are planning to bring in our new Mini Note to the market in July, so it will probably be in stores in July or the beginning of August,”” said Daisaku Shibata, senior sales manager for mobile PCs at JVC Canada.

While some major manufacturer, such as Toshiba, have pulled out of the ultra-portable market – defined by IDC as laptops with less than a 12-inch screen – there are still players, including Fujitsu’s P5020 line and Sony’s TR models.

But the biggest chunk of the laptop market is occupied by sales of machines with screens larger than 15-inches. However, one retailer believes there’s room for another player in the smaller format.

“”It sound very comparable to the P5020,”” said David Ellul, a salesman at Notebook Depot of Toronto, which caries lines from Fujitsu, Acer, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and IBM. “”It’s been a hot seller here forever. It’s a very popular form factor for those who need a small laptop.””

The Mini Note MP-XU8451 will have a list price of $3,199, which will make it hard to compete against the top of Fujitsu’s P-Series the 5020D. It has similar features to the JVC and a bigger 10.6-inch screen, although a bit heavier, and sells at Notebook Depot for $2,495.

“”It’s a high price point,”” Eddie Chan, mobile PC analyst at IDC Canada, said of the Mini Note’s list price.

The Mini Note comes with Windows XP Pro. Powered by a Pentium-M Ultra Low Voltage 1.0GHz processor, it has 256 Mb of memory, a 40Gb hard drive, a DVD – CD-RW optical drive, Wi-Fi b/g wireless connectivity, a modem and two USB 2.0 ports. An optional port replicator adds two more USB ports.

The 8.9-inch QXGA screen has a resolution of up to 2048 x 1536 pixels. If that’s not enough there’s also an external video connector.

While life of the Li-ion battery is claimed to be 6.7 hours between charges, some users might not like the fact that it’s not internal, but clips on to the back of the unit.

There’s also a LAN jack, a PC Card Type II slot, an SD memory card slot.

Shibata said JVC is aiming for a small slice of the laptop market with the Mini Note, hoping to sell 1,000 of them in the first year.

To Chan, JVC is “”testing the waters”” with the Mini Note. It’s an opportunity for them to test market a product sold in the company’s Japanese market and promote its technology.

But, he added, it will have to face major laptop makers who are focused on the commercial market.

JVC, he hinted, may not be alone for long among Asian consumer electronics makers bringing in small laptops. Other CE laptop manufacturers – who he wouldn’t name – have talked to him about entering the market here.

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