Everex to make CloudBook UMPC with 9-in. LCD

More big doings on the tiny laptop front as competition with Eee heats up

Everex may not be releasing its first US$399 ultraportable CloudBook until the end of January, but the Taiwanese PC maker is already talking about a supersize successor due later this year that will sport a bigger screen but stay under US$500.

The first US$399 CloudBook is expected to be available Jan. 25 in Wal-Mart stores and from e-tailers such as WalMart.com, NewEgg.com and TigerDirect. It will have a 7-in. LCD, 1.2-GHz ultralow-voltage Via processor, 512MB RAM, 30GB hard drive and will run the gOS operating system, which is based on the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution.

Everex hopes to sell 20,000 CloudBooks in the first two months, according to Paul Kim, director of marketing at Everex, in a phone interview late last week after the CloudBook's unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The CloudBook is following the lead of the trailblazing Eee. Despite complaints about its tiny keyboard and 7-in. screen. Asustek Computer said it has sold more than 350,000 Eees in three months.

By the middle of the year, Asus plans to release Eees with larger 8- and 9-in. LCDs, built-in WiMax networking and the option to have Windows XP preinstalled instead of Xandros Linux. Asus thinks it can sell as many as 5 million Eees worldwide this year.

Everex also plans to have a CloudBook with a 9-in. screen out by June, according to Kim. And while the CloudBook available in January will only come in black, "we are seriously debating putting different skins" on the later, larger model, he said.

The keyboard in the larger CloudBook will also be "noticeably" bigger, Kim said. More memory and greater storage are also possibilities, he said, though they may come at a higher price.

Still loving Linux

One thing that won't change is Everex's commitment to using Linux and other free open-source applications. The CloudBook and a US$199 desktop PC from Everex called the gPC both run a flavor of Ubuntu Linux called gOS. It's developed by Good OS LLC, which is run by 22-year-old David Liu.

The computers also use Firefox and OpenOffice and rely heavily on Web-based applications such as Google Docs.

"There is definitely pressure" from Microsoft to get Everex to install Windows rather than the free Linux on the CloudBook, Kim said. But Everex doesn't want to risk making the CloudBook too pricey -- one of the things that has held Windows-based ultramobile PCs back.

"We need to incentivize people, so we are going very, very aggressive" on price, Kim said.

Everex sold 10,000 gPCs in the U.S. during Christmas, Kim said. Version 2 of the gPC in a slightly smaller case will be available by the end of February, and Everex hopes to sell 100,000 gPCs by September.

Though not well-known to mainstream consumers in the US, Everex's parent company, First International Computer, has long supplied components and whole desktop and notebook PCs to Fujitsu Siemens, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway (now part of Acer), NEC and others.

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Eric Lai

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