Casio will release on Wednesday in the United States its Fiva MPC-206E notebook, which contains a copy of Windows Me and a subset of Linux. As previously reported, consumers can use Windows to run most applications on the notebook but can switch to Linux to play MP3 tunes or read certain files.
Running these applications on Linux cuts boot-up time and can incrementally extend battery life, according to executives from Transmeta, whose Crusoe processor is found in the notebook. The notebook, which sells for $1,999, is one of a number of Crusoe-based notebooks hitting the United States this spring.
Transmeta introduced the Crusoe processor family in January 2000. The first notebooks containing the chips hit Japan in September. Although Sony brought a Crusoe-based Vaio notebook to the States in October, few other manufacturers have followed Sony's lead and instead have continued to concentrate on the Japanese market.
The picture started to change last month when NEC brought out two Crusoe-based notebooks for the U.S. business market. Toshiba earlier this week announced its first Transmeta-based notebook but is only currently marketing the machine in Japan.
Although Japan's Casio isn't a huge notebook manufacturer, the new Fiva scores points for design novelty. The notebook weighs 2.1 pounds, but it contains a 20GB hard drive and a 600MHz processor. The Fiva can last for nine hours on a single battery charge, according to Casio. In Japan, Casio sells a version festooned with Hello Kitty stickers.
On the down side, the screen only measures 8.4 inches, smaller than those found in most U.S. notebooks.
The notebook, of course, is one of the few that makes it easy to switch between operating systems. The Fiva doesn't contain a complete version of Linux, but a partial version for running a few applications. Consumers, however, can convert the machine to an all-Linux beast.
Eventually, a Windows-Linux combination could become more popular.
"Everybody has been trying to figure out how Linux is going to enter the (notebook) business," David Ditzel, Transmeta's chief technology officer, said in March. "Rather than see a Linux machine that is separate and distinct from a Windows machine, there is going to be a possibility of a peaceful coexistence."