Gateway Launches Skinny Business Laptops

Gateway today launched two lightweight notebooks, including its first ultraportable computer since 2002. The latest products are the M255-E lightweight performance notebook and the E-100M ultraportable notebook.

Gateway engineers redesigned the existing M250 notebook to create the M255-E with an eye on the business user, says Ray Sawall, a Gateway product manager.

The M255-E ended up at 5.2 pounds with a 14-inch wide screen, Intel Centrino Mobile architecture with a Core Duo processor, and modular bays that allow users to swap in their choice of a DVD drive, an extra hard drive, an extra battery, or a lightweight placeholder. Gateway also offers battery options: Users can pick a 6-, 8- or 12-cell battery, getting up to 9 hours of use, the company says.

Ultraportable Specs

In comparison, the E100-M is a 3.2-pound notebook with a 12-inch wide-screen display, Centrino with a Core Solo processor, integrated 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, and the choice of a three-, six- or nine-cell battery powering up to 8 hours of use. The downside to its sub-1-inch thickness is that users must connect an external drive to the USB port to view DVDs.

Both models sell for $1399 and are available in versions for home or small- and medium-business use.

The E-100M is Gateway's first ultraportable since the Model 200 in 2002.

"We're reentering that segment now because we see big growth in the industry," Sawall says. Gateway is not alone--it will have to compete against Dell, Toshiba, and Sony for that market.

Gateway's Competition

The M255-E and E-100M are the third and fourth new notebooks of the year for Gateway, after the January launch of the M-465 performance-and-mobility hybrid and M-685 high-end desktop replacement.

Together, the products mark an effort by the company to regain success after struggling in recent years since selling its money-losing brick-and-mortar stores, says Nicole D'Onofrio, an analyst with Current Analysis.

The company has had measured success so far. In 2006 Gateway has used aggressive pricing to capture strong first-quarter retail sales, but it is still struggling in the direct and professional markets, D'Onofrio says.

To regain share in those areas, Gateway will have to compete with Dell and Hewlett-Packard in the corporate enterprise market, as well as fast-growing brands like Acer and Lenovo Group in the small- and medium-business sector.

"What we haven't seen from Gateway is how they're going to differentiate themselves," she says. The company's aggressive pricing may appeal to some small and medium businesses. But enterprise buyers are less price-sensitive, demanding high-performance features like advanced wireless connectivity and fingerprint-scanning security.

"Integrated WAN is in its infancy in notebooks, but is a technology driver for the professional market. Lenovo, HP, and Dell have already come out with that feature, and Gateway needs it to compete," D'Onofrio says.

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