CEBIT - Lamborghini, Intel set to race Ferrari, AMD

Asustek's Lamborghini laptops carrying Intel CPUs will be out by April, ready to compete against Acer's Ferrari laptop, which runs on AMD chips.

Asustek Computer will have a notebook PC developed in conjunction with sports-car maker Automobili Lamborghini on world markets by April, just ahead of the start of the San Marino Grand Prix, which is held at a race track named after the founder of one of Lamborghini's most potent rivals, Enzo Ferrari.

It's symbolic of the battle the laptop is about to engage. The device is an answer to the Scuderia Ferrari notebook PCs launched by Acer in October 2003, and throws together a number of fierce rivalries.

For starters, the Lamborghini notebook runs on a dual-core Pentium M by Intel, while the latest model in the Ferrari series, the 4000, carries a Turion 64 processor developed by Advanced Micro Devices, which runs both 32-bit and 64-bit programs.

And it's the bitter Intel-AMD rivalry that helped get the Lamborghini laptop to market.

"Intel really helped push this deal," said Lars Schweden, notebook product manager for Asustek in Germany, speaking at the company's booth Wednesday before the official start of the Cebit trade show. He said both Asustek and Intel wanted to see a notebook that would compete against Acer's Ferrari notebook, and Intel helped seal the deal between Asustek and Lamborghini.

The Lamborghini notebook also runs on an Nvidia GPU (graphics processing unit), while the Ferrari carries a GPU developed by the industry's other leading graphics maker, ATI Technologies. The two companies trade the GPU industry leader title back and forth, with Nvidia currently out front.

Asustek and Acer are no great friends, either. They're both Taiwanese companies, but while Acer has already built a recognized global name brand, upstart Asustek has only recently started developing and marketing its own-branded products. The company has for years been a contract manufacturer, producing goods for other customers such as Apple Computer and Sony, and building components -- it's the world's largest motherboard maker.

Then there's Lamborghini versus Ferrari, two Italian automakers that have been racing against each other on the world Formula One circuit since the 1960s, when then tractor-maker Lamborghini turned its sights on building race cars. Ferrari opened in 1947.

Now, both companies are branching out into using their name and design prowess in other product areas. The Lamborghini notebook is aimed at the top end of the market and will come in two colors, yellow and black, that give off the sheen of the paint job on a fine car. It will carry over a gigabyte of RAM and a 120GB hard drive, according to Schweden. It has a 15-inch screen and weighs in at 2.5 kilograms. The company did not have a spec sheet available, but he said they would retail for Euro 2,799 (US$3,345).

It also carries the Lamborghini logo, a black shield adorned with the word "Lamborghini" and the company symbol, a bull, in gold.

Acer's latest Ferrari 4000, which comes in black and patented Ferrari red, carries similarly heavy hitting hardware, but was launched last May, so comparisons are hard to make. Aside from its CPU and graphics chip, the system also carries a gigabyte of RAM and a 100GB hard drive. It's on sale at some Internet sites for as low as US$1,800.

The Ferrari logo is a rearing black stallion inside a yellow shield that carries a red crown.

The Lamborghini laptop also likely won't be the last co-developed product launched by Asustek.

"This partnership is not just for notebooks," said Schweden, "other products will come from this partnership."

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Dan Nystedt

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