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On Tuesday, Acer launched its first entry into the low-cost subnotebook genre: the Aspire One.
The 'mobile internet device' (MID), which Acer is trying very hard to categorise away from its higher-end laptops, is one of the first machines to be based on Intel's low-power Atom processor. It has a "95 percent"-sized keyboard and an 8.9-inch screen.
Acer hopes to sell seven million of the devices this year alone, although the company's vice president of marketing and brand, Gianpiero Morbello, said at the launch that it could produce even more units "if Intel gives [Acer] more processors".
Morbello said that, for Acer, the Aspire One was "not an entry-level notebook", but should in fact be classified along with Acer's nascent handset business — the company bought the phone manufacturer Eten earlier this year for its expertise, and is planning a big push in the handheld market.
Acer is currently the second-largest notebook producer in the world, behind HP.
The Acer Aspire One will come in five or six different configurations. The baseline model will use the Linpus distribution of Linux, and will cost around £199. This version will use an 8GB solid-state drive (SSD) and 512MB of RAM.
More expensive models will have more RAM and either 3G or WiMax connectivity, depending on the region in which they are being sold. All versions have Wi-Fi. The most expensive model will be the Windows XP version, which will have an 80GB hard hard drive (HDD) and will cost £299. Because of the use of an HDD rather than an SSD, the XP version will also be heavier than the more basic Linux version, which weighs in at less than 1kg.
Acer is being very bullish on Linux, which it likes for its configurability. Morbello said the company had "made a big investment in Linux", and praised the fast start-up time of the Linux Aspire One (15 seconds). He said that, with the larger six-cell battery (a three-cell comes as standard), the Linux version would last up to seven hours and the XP version just five, and joked: "To be honest we would prefer not to sell the XP version."
The Linpus distro has a very simple presentation, and includes a unified mailbox and a unified instant messaging (IM) client — both of which aggregate various popular mail and IM brands. The mailbox also ties into (IM) client, showing whether a sender is online and linking through to IM where possible. A version of the Firefox browser is also included, complete with preinstalled media player plugins. OpenOffice comes as standard.
The Acer Aspire One has two flash drive slots, one on either side. One, an SD card reader, is intended as storage expansion for the system which can be used to boost the 8GB built-in flash storage. The second slot is a five-in-one card reader that accepts SD, MMC, RS-MMC, Memory Stick and xD cards that the system will recognise as part of the hard drive.