First Android netbook to cost about $250

Guangzhou Skytone's 1.5-pound Alpha 680 also first netbook to use ARM chip

The first netbook computer running the Google Inc.-backed Android mobile operating system on a low-cost ARM chip could become available to customers within three months, the maker's co-founder said this week.

The Alpha 680, designed by Guangzhou Skytone Transmission Technologies Co. Ltd., is going through final testing now, Nixon Wu, Skytone's co-founder, told Computerworld exclusively.

The 50-employee company, located in the southern Chinese city in its name, is aiming to have final prototypes ready by June, with manufacturers likely to introduce models to the market 1 to 2 months after that, he said.

The Alpha 680 caused a flurry of excitement after it was spotted online earlier this week by Computerworld blogger Seth Weintraub.

Prototypes actually made their public debut at an electronics trade show in Hong Kong the week before.

"We've gotten 300 inquiries from different countries," Wu said.

The excitement surrounding a no-frills computer made by an unknown Chinese manufacturer is mostly due to the potential of the technology underlying it.

Used in billions of cellphones today, ARM processors are less expensive and more energy-efficient than even Intel Corp.'s power-sipping Atom CPU.

Android, meanwhile, is fast-emerging as a popular flavor of Linux for smartphones such as Google's G1, attracting interest from software developers as quickly as Apple Inc.'s iPhone did.

Market experts predict that the combination of ARM and Android could help usher in an era of sub-$200 netbooks with 12-hour battery life and creative designs highly-tailored for different consumers.

It could also allow ARM/Android netbooks to wrest the netbook market from Intel's Atom chips and Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, which could weaken or break Microsoft and Intel's grip on the PC market.

Great expectations

Ian Drew, an executive at ARM Holdings PLC, told Computerworld earlier this month that he expects to see "six to 10 ARM-based netbooks this year, starting in Q3."

As the first in this coming wave, the Alpha 680 may enthrall some netbook watchers, and disappointothers.

The Alpha 680 will break new ground in portability. Prototypes weigh about 1.5 pounds and measure 8.5 inches long, 6 inches wide and 1.2 inches thick, says Wu -- petite enough to fit inside a small purse or shoulder bag.

"It's definitely smaller than the Eee," Drew said. (The original Eee 701 weighs 922 grams and measures 9 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches).

The Alpha 680 is using an ARM11 CPU running at 533 MHz. First introduced in 2002, the ARM11 chip, including later, more powerful versions, have been used in many different smartphones, including Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPhone Touch devices.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Google AndroidArmnetbooksalpha 680

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Lai

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?