Toshiba hopes to conquer new markets

Currently atop the hotly contested notebook market, Toshiba is setting its sights on a broader target: the server and desktop market.

Currently atop the hotly contested notebook market, Toshiba is setting its sights on a broader target: the server and desktop market. Beginning early next year, the company plans to unleash a flurry of new products aimed at cracking the corporate server and desktop arena as well as the home PC market, according to Vaughn Hysinger, vice-president of marketing for Toshiba's computer systems division.

Central to that strategy is a line of servers that will range 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, Hysinger says.

"We're planning a standard server line that ranges from an entry-level single-CPU system to a four-way P6 system," Hysinger says. Still under consideration is whether Toshiba will also have a RISC-based offering to compete in the Unix space alongside clustered Pentium Pro systems. "By the time the systems are available, we'll be able to scale to eight-way in a clustered environment," Hysinger says.

Despite Toshiba's strength in the portable PC space, some analysts see a tough uphill climb for the company. "Toshiba is coming into a well-saturated market," says Jerry Sheridan, principal analyst at Dataquest, in San Jose, California. "That'll be a real tough battle."

Cracking the reseller channel is not the problem; instead Toshiba needs to offer a comprehensive and value-added software solution. "There's more software involved than Toshiba has anticipated. This isn't just an iron game at the server level. It's a systems game. People don't just sell boxes anymore," says Frank Dzubeck, president of Network Communications Architectures, a Washington-based consultancy.

Meanwhile, Toshiba's push into the corporate desktop market will begin in the first quarter of next year, Hysinger says. The company will unveil a full range of desktops, Pentium- and Pentium Pro-based, with processor speeds running from 133 to 200 MHz, Hysinger says. The systems will also offer 16 to 32Mb of RAM and from three to seven expansion slots. The corporate desktops will include a network interface. Toshiba is still toying with integrating DVD into the machines. Pricing on the corporate desktops has not been set, Hysinger says.

As a precursor to that effort, Toshiba will initially launch a line of consumer desktops, shipping in the first half of September, Hysinger says. The line will have four models. It will have many of the same elements as the corporate desktop line and will run Windows 95.

Priced from less than US$2000 to US$2700 and featuring a tower-type chassis, the consumer line will emphasise multimedia, including internal eight-speed CD-ROM, integrated DVD technology, and other home electronics features. One device, Hysinger says, will take the form of an LCD panel on the monitor, which will allow users to press programmable buttons to move seamlessly from PC use to operating a vidoecassette recorder to running full-motion video to listening to a radio.

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