Despite their popularity, most mini-notebook PCs are not carried by the authorised distributors of Japanese PC makers. When a customer surfing the Web or reading computer magazines wants to buy a mini-notebook, shops have two solutions. Most commonly, a shop employee will fly to Japan and buy from a shopkeeper. The employee will pay cash for up to 20 computers and accessories, and carry them back as extra luggage. There also are local trading companies - some of which subsidiaries of Japanese firms - which sell notebook PCs to local shops. Leon Cheung, manager of Carion Computers in Windsor House, says the plummeting yen has helped make mini-notebooks cheaper and more attractive. More important to him, however, is the higher potential profit afforded by parallel-imported goods. His shop will sell initial batches of new Japanese models at up to 30 to 40 per cent profit because fewer shops will carry them and 'early adopters' will pay more. If the model is successful, like the Sharp Mebius - of which Carion sells more than 10 a week - then more shops will begin selling it, forcing Mr Cheung to slash his margin to stay competitive. Why don't local distributors such as Chevalier (Toshiba) and Sharp-Roxy get on the ball? 'Maybe Hong Kong is too small a market,' Mr Cheung said. He points out that the distributors also would face the costs of carrying hard-to-find spare parts and teaching technicians how to fix and service broken mini-notebooks. Because the computers are bought in Japan, the typical one-year warranty only allows for service or repairs in Japan. Even the Sharp Mebius, which carries an international limited warranty, is not covered in Hong Kong, according to a Sharp-Roxy official. Mr Cheung admits that buying a mini-notebook PC is riskier than a sub-notebook with a local distributor, but he says any shop will offer a one-year warranty as comprehensive as the Japanese warranty. David Lau, of GoodBest Technologies, says that if his shop cannot fix the PC, it will send it to Japan for repair with return time of a week or more. 'There is no problem with Japanese warranties,' Mr Lau said. The only worry, it seems, is if your shop suddenly goes out of business, which, in this market, is an increasing risk.