Thu, Jun 08, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Asustek's ultra-mobile PCs attract attention

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The booths of Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦), the world's largest motherboard maker, were packed with visitors at Computex Taipei yesterday.

They were busy checking out the company's latest offerings at the world's second-largest computer trade show, with some especially eager to put their hands on its first ultra-mobile PC (UMPC).

Asustek is set to launch its UMPC, the R2H, early next month, with a focus on the US, Europe, Taiwan and China.

Though Samsung Electronics Co already took the lead by launching the world's first UMPC -- dubbed the Q1 -- with a price tag of US$1,100, Asustek is attempting to lure consumers with prices as low as US$799.

Depending on specifications and peripherals, the price of an R2H price can go up to US$1,099, David Kao (高偉淙), Asustek's notebook product manager, told the Taipei Times.

By launching its compact after its rivals, the company has had time to address some glitches, including complaints about the battery life of Samsung's models. With a second battery, the R2H can last for 6.5 hours, longer than Samsung's 3.5 hours, Kao said.

"We already received some orders from the commercial segment, including financial and insurance firms, which require high mobility on the go," Kao said.

Featuring a 7-inch touch screen, the UMPCs are super-portable, full-feature computers, but are roughly the size of a paperback and weigh less than 1kg.

In addition to Webcams and video telephony, the R2H is equipped with a fingerprint sensor for easier logon and security, as well as global positioning system, which is popular in the US and Europe for traffic navigation.

Another alluring feature is its "Infopen" software, allowing users to highlight documents, including picture files with notes, and then e-mail them to friends or colleagues, Kao said.

Initial worldwide shipments of the R2H are expected to hit around 5,000 to 6,000 units per month, Kao said, adding the company is in talks with distributors to pave the way for the official debut.

AMtek System Co (奐億科技), a local handheld device company, also showcased its UMPCs at the Computex. Its models are powered by chipsets from VIA Technologies Inc (威盛科技) and sell for US$899 each in Japan.

On Monday, Japan's Sony Corp unveiled its UMPCs in Taipei. Equipped with a 4.5-inch screen, the Vaio UX17TP weighs only 517g and has a 30-gigabyte hard drive. The compact notebook will hit local stores on July 8 with a price tag of NT$59,800 (US$1,866).

One analyst, however, cautioned that the small PCs might not be able to live up to the hype just yet.

“These are technology-driven products and their user interfaces are not yet

mature to hook up general consumers,” said Amy Teng (鄧雅君), an analyst at

Gartner Inc's Taiwan office.

Unless more technology improvements follow and more vendors jump on the UMPC

bandwagon, she expected the products to face the same slow adoption that

tablet PCs received.

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