Via open sources laptop designs; Will it make Via relevant as a chipmaker again?

Via has open sourced a laptop--computer assisted design documents, 3D models and all of the specifications--but let's be clear about the motives. Via wants to sell more chips and motherboards to power this device with hopes to become a little more relevant.

Via has open sourced a laptop--computer assisted design documents, 3D models and all of the specifications--but let's be clear about the motives. Via wants to sell more chips and motherboards to power this device with hopes to become a little more relevant.

Via calls this contraption the Via OpenBook Mini-Note re

ference design and will give you all the CAD designs and all the information you need to build a Vista laptop via a Creative Commons 3.0 license (statement, Techmeme). For the average bear, these documents aren't going to matter a whole lot. For instance, I registered and downloaded a few CAD documents (see gallery right) only to find out I didn't have the program to open them. But that's ok because I wouldn't know what to do with them anyway.

So what's this move really about? Simply put, it's about the Via chipset and motherboard. Years ago, Via was mentioned along with Intel and AMD as a semiconductor player. Via is still around, but in the U.S. it has lost its mojo as a known name. By open sourcing its laptop designs, Via is hoping that it takes off and moves a few chips and motherboards.

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Via's OpenBook reference design allows for multiple connectivity modules including HSDPA, EV-DO/W-CDMA 3G and WiMAX. And the specifications are full featured. Here's the list:

Processor: 1.6GHz VIA C7-M ULV Processor

FSB: 800MHz

Chipset: VIA VX800 unified chipset.

Memory: DDR2 SO-DIMM up to 2GB

HDD: 80GB Hard-Disk or above

LCD Panel: 8.9" WVGA 1024X600 LED screen

Graphics: VIA Chrome9 HC3 DX9 3D engine with shared system memory up to 256MB

Video Decoding: MPEG-2, MPEG-4, VC1 and DiVX video decoding acceleration

Audio: Realtek HD Audio codec, 2 speakers

Networking: 10/100/1000 Mb/s Broadcom Giga NIC Ethernet Solution

Wireless: Broadcom 802.11b/g or GCT 802.16e

-2in1 (WiFI+ Blue Tooth) default module

-3in1 (AGPS+WiFI+ Blue Tooth) upgrade module

-WiMAX secondary wireless module option

-EV-DO /W-CDMA secondary wireless module option

-HSPDA secondary wireless module option

I/O: 4 in 1 embedded card reader

1 D-Sub Port

3 x USB (Ver. 2.0 Type A Port)

1 Mic-in audio jack

1 Headphone out

Webcam: 2.01 megapixel dual headed rotary CCD camera

Dimension: 240(W)x175(D)mm

Thickness: 36.2(H)mm ( at battery)

Weight: Under 1kg

Operating System Support: Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista and all popular Linux distributions

Status Indicators Power on, battery and HDD LEDs

Battery: 4 Cells, 2600ma

Options: USB interface DVD Dual RW

Leather Cover

The big question is whether other companies will use Via's designs. It's unlikely that a competitor--Asus, Dell, HP, Apple and any contract equipment manufacturer--would use them. Perhaps some upstart will Via's OpenBook useful, but open sourcing laptop designs can only go so far because most of us don't manufacture electronics for giggles.