Asus Eee to get Intel's Atom processor

The low-cost subnotebook will get Intel's Atom processor and a hard-drive option, says Asus's chief executive, although confusion reigns over the Eee 900's pricing and availability in the UK
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Asus's low-cost subnotebook, the Eee PC, is to incorporate Intel's recently announced Atom processor, the laptop manufacturer's chief executive has revealed. However, there remains some confusion as to exactly when the new Eee PCs will go on sale in the UK.

In an interview with Laptop Magazine published on Saturday, Jerry Shen also said that Asus may at some point incorporate hard-drives, rather than solid-state storage, into the popular machines.

Asked in the interview whether Asus might go with Atom — previously code-named Diamondville — or Via's rival Isaiah processor, Shen said Intel's offering was "the better choice, because it uses the 45nm processor [and] is very competitive". Via's Isaiah chip uses the 65nm manufacturing process. "In my planning I will continue to use Intel's Diamondville," continued Shen, adding that it had superior power management.

The Atom brand will incorporate two of Intel's new processors, the other previously having been code-named Silverthorne, but it is Diamondville that is targeting the low-cost, low-powered market that the Eee has done so much to kick-start.

Shen said that Atom-bearing Eee PCs would be "hitting the market" in May, which appears to be the first indication yet as to when Intel's new processor will make an appearance in-store. Intel had not responded to a call for confirmation of this date at the time of writing.

The Asus chief expanded further on his company's announcement last week that the Eee would be coming with optional pre-installed Windows, saying Microsoft's operating system would be available on the lowest specification of the upcoming Eee 900: the version with 8GB of storage. The higher-specified versions, which could have as much as 20GB of storage depending on "guidelines we have to follow", will come with Xandros Linux.

However, a spokesperson for Asus told ZDNet.co.uk on Monday that all versions of the Eee 900 would have XP as an option. The spokesperson added that, although an XP version of the current Eee 701 model would go on sale in the UK in April, the first Eee 900 would only appear here around the end of Q2 or the beginning of Q3. This contradicts what was said by Asus at the CeBIT show in Germany last week, in which it was claimed that the Eee 900 would go on sale from April.

The Asus spokesperson also said that the entry-level Eee 900, which will have 8GB of storage, would cost "around the £250 mark" — again, this contradicts last week's announcement that the Eee 900 would cost from €399 (£306). The Eee 900 will sport several upgrades over the 701, not least an 8.9-inch screen as opposed to the 701's 7-inch screen.

In his interview, Shen also indicated that Asus was "looking at an option to provide hard drives", although the earliest versions of the Eee 900 "will only support solid-state drives". Current storage limitations might also be overcome by a plan to bundle 10GB of internet-based storage with the Eee, he added.

The Eee PC has suffered from supply problems in Europe and elsewhere. Acknowledging this as a "serious issue", Shen said the problems stemmed from "a huge shortage of batteries".

"The battery, unfortunately, will remain an issue but I think we can solve the battery issue by May," Shen said. "In Europe, if we can supply the batteries, the sales of the machines will go up to 300,000 or 400,000 per month."

Many manufacturers, including HP and Acer, are planning to launch Atom-based competitors to the Eee later this year, but Shen claimed in the interview that Asus would be able to keep up through "innovation in the style and the electronics".

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