Asus stuns Computex with £100 laptop

Asus shocks Computex with the announcement of a £100 laptop - but what compromises does it make?

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Asus chairman Jonney Shih sprang a surprise during Intel's Computex keynote today with the announcement of a $189 laptop.

The notebook measures roughly 120 x 100 x 30mm (WDH) and weighs only 900g. We saw the notebook boot in 15 seconds from its solid-state hard disk. The huge auditorium then burst into applause as Shih revealed the astounding price tag. Dubbed the 3ePC, Shih claimed the notebook is the 'lowest cost and easiest PC to use'. As the crowds rushed the stage, we sneaked off to the Asus stand to take a closer look.

The notebook uses a custom-written Linux operating system, much like the OLPC, though unlike the OLPC, Asus has chosen a more conventional interface. The desktop looked fairly similar to Windows and we saw Firefox running on one 3ePC. A spokesperson from Asus told us that the notebook would come with "an office suite that's compatible with MS Office", though he refused to confirm or deny whether that meant OpenOffice.

He claimed the 3ePC would be available in all areas of the world, not only developing nations.

The low price comes from some interesting design choices, primarily the flash-based hard disk. A disk of today's standard capacity would cost more than notebook itself as we saw with the 32GB Samsung disk, but Asus uses a 2GB disk. We were not allowed to touch the 3ePC so couldn't tell how much of this is left after the bespoke OS is installed.

The CPU also remains a mystery, though Shih said the version on show did have 512MB of RAM. Another version will be available for $299, but nobody could tell us what the difference between the two models is.

For all the latest news and developments from Computex 2007 see: www.pcpro.co.uk/html/computex2007

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