While manufacturing troubles are expected to cause a number of portable-computer makers to stumble in the critical holiday buying season, Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. rolled out a new line of notebook personal computers Monday and appears poised to build on its sturdy market-share lead.
The Irvine-based subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba Corp. said that it will begin shipping a new high-performance line of notebook PCs called the Tecra 700 series in mid-November. These machines, designed for corporate customers, will feature speedy, 120-megahertz Pentium processors and huge, 1.13-gigabyte hard drives.
Other manufacturers, including IBM and Compaq, are expected to ship similarly equipped machines about the same time. But analysts say Toshiba appears to be less troubled by the shortage of components that is expected to dampen the supply of portable PCs in the fourth quarter.
"Toshiba is well-positioned in relation to all the other vendors," said Randy Giusto, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass.
"All the other vendors are trying to figure out why they're so successful," he said.
The number of portable computers shipped in the fourth quarter is expected to be just 15% higher than in the same quarter of 1994, falling far short of the swelling demand for laptop PCs.
In contrast, shipments of laptops grew by 22% to 35% through the first three quarters of the year, Giusto said.
The growth sputter stems from the struggles of a number of manufacturers to incorporate Pentium processors in their machines and to secure adequate supplies of the high-capacity batteries and memory chips that consumers increasingly demand, Giusto said.
But Toshiba, which already holds about 21% of the domestic market for notebook computers, could add to its lead because it has adapted to the Pentium processor more quickly than rivals and has strong relationships with suppliers of the sought-after components.
The company was the first to introduce a notebook PC with a Pentium chip last year and helped develop a metal casing for the chip that takes up far less space inside the computer than the ceramic or plastic casings common in desktop PCs.
As a result, Toshiba took less time than rivals redesigning the insides of its computers to accept the Pentium chips specially designed by Intel for portable PCs last year, said Tom Scott, general manager at Toshiba America.
Further, the company has developed close ties with Sony and NEC, key manufacturers of the lithium ion batteries and high-performance memory chips that are currently in short supply.
"I think we've got an excellent opportunity to maintain or gain market share," Scott said.