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New laptop computers lighter, more powerful

Japanese companies are promising a new generation of laptop computers made smaller and lighter by new power-saving circuits and plug-in memory cards that replace floppy disks. "Even though laptop computers were called portable in the past, they really were a burden for people who had to carry them around all day," said Isao Hirano, a spokesman for Fujitsu Ltd., Japan's largest computer maker. "We've changed that now."

Fujitsu last week introduced a thin, laptop-size personal computer, the FM R-CARD, which uses a full-size keyboard but weighs only 2.2 pounds _ less than half the weight of many other laptops.

It uses power-saving technology developed by Poqet Computer, a U.S. company that sells a miniature 1.1-pound computer in the United States. Fujitsu owns

58 percent of Poqet and manufactures its computer, which is about half the size of a normal laptop.

Such technology, which cuts electricity to circuits that are not being used, is important for portable computers because it extends battery life and allows the use of smaller, lighter batteries.

Instead of the heavy battery packs used by most portable computers, which must be recharged every few hours, Fujitsu's FM R-CARD runs for eight hours on two regular alkaline penlight batteries.

The FM R-CARD, going on sale in Japan in January for 238,000 yen, or about $1,900, uses a unique Fujitsu computing standard and is not directly compatible with computers made by International Business Machines Corp. Officials said they don't plan to market the laptop overseas, but wouldn't be surprised if Poqet introduces an IBM-compatible model in the United States.

Also last week, Japan's NEC Corp. announced a diary-size computer, the PC-98 HA, which weighs 2.4 pounds. Because of its small keyboard, NEC officials said they expect it will be used mostly for data retrieval, scheduling and light word processing.

The NEC model, which also is not IBM-compatible, goes on sale in Japan next week at 198,000 yen, or about $1,585. No plans have been made for overseas marketing, officials said.

Like the Fujitsu, the NEC model uses plug-in memory cards instead of floppy disks.

The cards, which look like thick credit cards, use much less electricity and are 100 times faster than floppy disks, said Yoshihiro Satoh of Fujitsu's personal computer engineering division.

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