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As Cambridge, UK company Tadpole Technology Plc has been finding out, the movable workstation market is a tough nut crack. The company recently announced swingeing price cuts – up to 35% on the price of its SparcBook 3 laptops – and other measures in an attempt to get back on to an even keel (CI No 2,723). Now, in what can only be good news for users, Tadpole’s aggressive re-pricing appears to have forced the competition on to the back foot and Carlsbad, California-based RDI Computer Corp has taken a pen to its price list, slashing tags on its microSparc-based PowerLite line of portables. Of course it helps that Sun Microsystems Inc’s latest Fujitsu Ltd-built 110MHz microSparc II is now in volume production and that it has cut prices on its 50MHz and 85MHz boards. Originally a $10,000 unit with 340Mb disk – $16,000 with a colour 1,024 by 768 active matrix screen (CI No 2,593) – RDI’s PowerLite 50 is reduced to $6,000 and comes with 16Mb RAM, 810Mb disk, 1,024 by 768 high resolution screen, floppy drive and facsimile-modem. The 85MHz model now starts at $9,700, down from $12,000, with a 640 by 480 colour active matrix screen – a new 800 by 600 screen option is an additional $1,000. The recently-introduced PowerLite 110 stays at $13,000.


The ruggedised product is unchanged. RDI claimed the new prices are between 15% and 30% lower than competitive products such as Tadpole’s SparcBook at the high-end and low-end respectively. As well as the 800 by 600 screen on the SparcStation 5-compatible 85 and 110 models, other options include support for up to three 1.2Gb drives, a PC Card port and version 1.2 of the Virtual Workgroup Architecture software with new suspend-resume functions. It is also put the laptops on a diet, managing to shave a pound off the weight of base configurations, which now tip the scales at 7.5 lbs. The company claims it’s now shifting between 200 and 300 units a month against its business plan. RDI gives its current microSparc II strategy another year before considering a low -power UltraSparc option. By comparison, Tadpole’s 6.5 lbs 50MHz microSparc I-based SparcBook 3LC now starts at $6,500 with 16Mb memory, 340Mb disk and a mono display. The 50MHz microSparc I-based SparcBook 3 with 16Mb memory, 340Mb disk and 640 by 480 active colour display starts from $7,950. The unit is $13,350 with 64Mb RAM and 1.2Gb disk. The SparcBook 3XP with an 85MHz microSparc II, 640 by 480 active colour display, 16Mb RAM and 340Mb disk is from $10,950. With 64Mb RAM and 1.2Gb disk it costs from $16,350. The SparcBook 3GX, with a 110MHz microSparc II, colour 800 by 600 display, 16Mb RAM and 540Mb disk is from $13,450. With 64Mb RAM and 1.2Gb disk it’s $18,650. All configurations include bundled Solaris 1.1.2 or 2.4, Nomadic Computing Environment software, built in modem, two PC Card slots, spare battery pack and carry case. Tadpole said its SparcBooks are have more functions and can be more easily upgradable than the RDI products, as well as coming in a smaller form factor and lower weight in typical configurations, and being more rugged due to their magnesium cases. It said that for these reasons, it would expect its tags to be higher than RDI systems. It said its rivalis only now starting to offer features that Tadpole has been offering for several years, like PC Card slots and Save-Resume. By the way, Tadpole reminds us, the Weitek Corp graphics chip set has been benchmarked faster than the Sun graphics chips; it said the part also gives it better control of the external display, which is completely software programmable from Video Graphic Array to 1,280 by 1,024 resolutions. Tadpole believes RDI’s now caught between a rock and a hard place as far as its market positioning is concerned, with the SparcBook notebook on one side and Sun’s moveable Voyager workstation with the high resolution display on the other. Tadpole said its plans for an Alpha notebook are still on track, but there were no details.

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