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New Battery Technology Gives Longer Life to Laptop Computers

SHORT battery life is a notorious handicap of laptop computers. After two to four hours, the nickle-metal hydride (NiMH) or nickle-cadmium (NiCad) battery is drained and the computer turns to useless plastic.

But a solution -- using technology dating back to the 1920s -- is at hand.

This summer, AER Energy Resources of Smyrna, Ga., will introduce zinc-air batteries, known as the Power 220. Weighing six pounds and occupying the space of a hardback Webster's dictionary, the batteries will keep a notebook computer running 24 to 30 hours. The new batteries are designed specifically for laptops made by Zenith Data Systems and Hewlett-Packard Company.

At $649, though, ''this is definitely not for everyone,'' says AER Energy marketing executive Mark Schimpf.

Drawing oxygen from the air for its electrochemical reaction, zinc-air packs three times the power per weight of NiMH and four times that of NiCad. It does, however, take up more space.

AER Energy is at work on a 2.2 pound battery contoured to fit under Hewlett-Packard's 3.8-pound HP OmniBook 600. It costs under $400 and powers the computer for 15 hours or more on a single charge.

--Scott Pendleton, staff

Allen buys into DreamWorks

PAUL ALLEN, co-founder of Microsoft Corporation and owner of the Portland (Ore.) Trail Blazers, is investing $500 million in the new motion-picture studio created by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen.

Mr. Allen will be the biggest outside investor in DreamWorks SKG and will hold a seat on its board of directors, the company announced Sunday. Allen said he has been looking to invest in the entertainment business because he believes ''there's going to be a melding of computer technology with entertainment content.''

The three founders will retain two-thirds of the company, Mr. Geffen said, which has total equity valued at $2.7 billion.

--Associated Press

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