Asustek aims to keep lead with Atom Eee PCs

Asustek launched its latest Atom-based Eee PCs, which starts at US$562.

Several new rivals to Asustek Computer's popular Eee PC low-cost laptop have launched so far at Computex this year, but Asustek fired back on Tuesday with new models based on Intel's Atom microprocessor.

Atom was designed to be a low-cost chip aimed at this growing segment of mini-laptops, which have 7-inch to 10-inch screens, weigh less than 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) and connect wirelessly to the Internet. The microprocessor is also easy on batteries.

Asustek has taken full advantage of Atom's power efficiency in its new Eee PC 901, Eee PC 1000 and Eee PC 1000H mini-laptops, putting six-cell batteries in each for eight hours of running time. The company used Intel Celeron M processors in past Eee PCs.

The main difference in the new laptops is size. The Eee PC 901 has an 8.9-inch screen, weighs around 1 kilogram and has a small keypad. The Eee PC 1000 and Eee PC 1000H carry 10-inch screens, larger keyboards and weigh between 1.3 to 1.5 kilograms, depending on whether a user chooses an SSD (solid state drive) or HDD (hard disk drive) for storage. The H in Eee PC 1000H stands for HDD, the 80G byte storage drive inside.

The Eee PC 1000 and 1000H are also a bit more expensive. While prices will vary by market, in Taiwan, the Eee PC 1000, which runs on Linux only and carries a 40G byte SDD, costs NT$19,988 (US$662), compared to NT$18,988 (US$628) for the 1000H, which comes with either Linux or Windows XP. The Eee PC 901 also comes with Linux or Windows XP, carries 1G byte of DRAM and either a 12G byte or 20G byte SSD for storage. It costs NT$16,988 (US$562).

The Eee PC 901 is on the market in Taiwan as of Tuesday, while the Eee PC 1000H will be out on June 13 and the Eee PC 1000 will come out sometime in early June, according to Asustek. Later this month, the three new Eee PCs will be available in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea as well as other locations in Asia.

Later this year, the new mini-laptops will be available in Europe, an Asustek representative said. No time was given for North or South America.

Asustek will be hard pressed to keep its lead with the Eee PC. Acer, which launched the Aspire one mini-laptop Tuesday, which will cost between US$399 to $499, aims to take a slice of Asustek's market.

Acer forecast its Aspire one sales will reach as many as 7 million units this year, compared to Asustek's forecast of 5 million Eee PCs. And Acer only has six months to meet its target, while Asustek has had a head start from the beginning of this year.

Several other PC vendors are launching mini-laptops, including Hewlett-Packard's Mini-Note, Dell's Mini-Inspiron, Elitegroup Computer Systems' G10IL, and Micro-Star International's Wind low-cost laptop.

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Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service

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