Eee PC 900 debuts with Windows XP

It packs an 8.9-inch display running at a native resolution of 1024-by-600 pixels

Asustek Computer Tuesday launched its biggest low-cost Eee laptop yet, and as expected, will offer it with either Linux or Microsoft's Windows XP Home.

The Eee PC 900, which the Taiwanese computer maker unveiled Tuesday, packs an 8.9-inch display running at a native resolution of 1024-by-600 pixels, a significantly higher resolution than the older, smaller Eee PC 701, which sports a 7-inch display running at 800-by-400 pixels.

Users can select either Windows XP Home or Linux as the 900's operating system. This is the second line of ultra-light notebooks from Asustek that offers XP as an option; it currently sells a pair of 7-inch Eee PC models running Microsoft's OS that it's dubbed the "Surf XP" and "4G XP."

The Eee PC 900 is equipped with 1GB of system memory, a 1.3-megapixel camera, an Apple MacBook Air-esque multi-touch trackpad, and either a 12GB or 20GB solid-state drive (SSD) for storage. When XP is installed, the 900 comes with the smaller-sized SSD.

"The Microsoft Windows version allows more experienced users to seamlessly utilize the Eee PC through the familiar Windows interface, and incorporates Windows Live features like Windows Live Messenger for instant messaging; and Windows Live Mail for consolidated e-mail accounts on the user's desktop," said Asustek in a statement issued Tuesday. A copy of Microsoft Works, an entry-level application suite, is also included on the XP version of the 900.

Although official US prices have not been set, the price quoted by the company Tuesday at a press conference in Taipei converts to about US$513 at current exchange rates.

Asustek's small-format Eee has made news since it was introduced last year, but it and other OEM's similar-sized notebooks have gotten a public relations boost by Microsoft's recent announcement that it would extend XP Home's lifespan an additional two years for computer makers of so-called "ultra-low-cost PC (ULCPC) portables.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft pushed back XP Home's end-of-availability to June 30, 2010, two years after the still-in-force June 30, 2008 deadline for most major computer manufacturers. Microsoft will also strike Windows XP off the retail list at the end of June.

Only OEMs building ULCPCs -- which Microsoft has yet to formally define -- will be allowed to pre-install XP Home as of July 1. The extension does not apply across the board to Windows XP , however.

Asustek did not reply to questions about official pricing, or when the Eee PC 900 will go on sale.

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