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IBM PLANS TO UNVEIL LAPTOP COMPUTER

International Business Machines Corp. plans to introduce a laptop computer in late February at a price competitive with other companies' lightweight portable machines, industry analysts said.

IBM has had difficulty breaking into the fast-growing segment of the personal computer market, but analysts said the new product would be a credible rival to existing machines.

The new machine, to be unveiled Feb. 26, will be the size of a notebook and weigh about 7.5 pounds including its battery, making it extremely portable.

It will be based on the relatively powerful Intel Corp. 386SX microprocessor and have a 60-megabyte hard drive, giving it a lot of memory for its class. The machine will retail for about $5,000, below the price of comparable computers offered by other manufacturers.

IBM officials were not immediately available to comment.

The laptop market is expected to continue to grow in coming years, with the lightweight notebook models holding the most promise.

Standard laptops weigh about 12 pounds, while "luggable" models weigh some 20 pounds. Sales of conventional desktop personal computers have been sluggish recently given the general economic slump and the near-saturation of certain target markets.

Wall Street analysts and industry consultants said IBM's laptop offering will round out the low end of its product line and provide it with another source of revenue growth.

Current laptop market contenders include Compaq Computer Corp., Tandy Corp. and Texas Instruments Inc. Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp. are among Japanese companies with similar machines.

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