The New Battleground: Ultra-thin Notebook Computers

Appleis MacBook Air proved that thereis a market for sleek, thin notebook computers designed for travel. The PC makers, mired in debilitating commodity prices for ever less expensive notebooks have noticed and are jumping in, according to Forbes on Monday.

The latest example is Toshibais 2.4 pound (1.1 kg) Portege R500-S5007V, but unlike the Apple MacBook Air, it also includes an optical drive and a 128 GB SSD. In developing the computer, Toshiba has also leaned from Apple: some people will pay a lot for convenience, and that convenience totals a hefty US$2,999.

Toshiba Portge R500-S5007V

While another class of small notebooks, loaded with Windows XP or Linux, and costing about US$500 is also catching attention in some circles, the PC makers have realized that thereis a market for premium priced computers that can offset microscopic margins on a $500 notebook.

Both Hewlett-Packard and Dell have jumped into the game. HP has the Voodoo Envy 133 that tries to compete with Appleis "cake slicing" thinness. Dell has the new M1330 which also includes an optical drive.

Itis not unexpected for Appleis rivals to pick up on markets that Apple has carved out, but the explicit inclusion of the optical drives suggests these companies are hearing something from their customers that Apple does not. That is, if Apple is listening.