Toshiba intent on being a survivor

When the squeeze goes on PC manufacturers, Toshiba wants to make sure it survives in the top three.

Mobile computing market leader Toshiba wants to guarantee itself a future by colonising the desktop, server and home PC markets. Beginning early next year, the company will release numerous new products, according to Vaughn Hysinger, vice-president of marketing for Toshiba's computer systems division.

They’ll include a line of servers ranging from a uniprocessor model to clustered four-way Pentium Pro systems that combine Intel's standard high-volume motherboard and Toshiba's own core technologies, such as memory, CD-ROMs, and digital video disc (DVD) storage.

Still under consideration is whether Toshiba will also have a RISC-based offering to compete in the Unix space alongside clustered Pentium Pro systems.

John Carson, another Toshiba marketing big-wig who was in the country recently, says the company has to diversify to survive and be competitive, because computer companies don't get to be in the top five unless they have more than one area of specialty.

"By the year 2000 we want to be a top three player. By then there probably won't be many more major computer companies than three or four, so we have to start aiming for that now."

Aside from the server line, Toshiba is also planning to release its first offering for the home market in Australasia, the Infinia, in the first quarter of next year. The Infinia looks more like a stereo and TV package than a computer, with its hard drive tower flared at the bottom with heat-release perforations and a remote control which can take care of most computer functions instead of a keyboard.

Also in the first quarter of 1997, but in the US, Toshiba will release a Pentium 166 portable with MMX and a 13.3in screen, and a range of desktop system with Pentium and Pentium Pro processors ranging from 133MHz to 200MHz.

They’ll come with 16Mb to 32Mb of RAM and from three to seven expansion slots. The desktops will include a network interface. Toshiba is still toying with integrating DVD into the machines.

Future developments for Toshiba mobile PCs include writable DVD drives for storage--to act as external hard drives and thus reduce the size, weight and heat factors for Toshiba's laptops. By 1998 Toshiba expects to have DVD drives for notebook machines which will store up to 18Gb of data.

Toshiba will also be making Microsoft's NT 4.0 available for portables. Carson says engineers at the Toshiba engineering centre in Microsoft’s home town of Seattle are working on the drivers and hope to have a pre-install ready by early 1997.

"We surveyed our users," Carson says, "And found they really wanted NT as the operating system on their portables. Toshiba has had to write the drivers and everything because Microsoft refuses to do 4.0 on portables. We hope to provide the OS on CD-ROM or over the Net for the Tecra 700 range, the Portege 660 and for the Tecra 500 range."

Carson says Toshiba sees Compaq and IBM as its competition in the desktop PC and server markets, but in the consumer world at which the Infinia is aimed, the competition is less apparent. "We were more worried when Sony said it was going to get into the home PC market, than we are by Compaq or IBM's home ranges. But Sony turned out to have just a standard kind of PC.

“I think our competition could come from some different company recreating the home PC, making some totally new device for the home to compete with standard computer companies. We believe we will be competing with someone who is not necessarily a traditional computer developer."

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