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Asus: Android Eee PC on hold

CEO doesn't see a market for smartbooks

Asus CEO Jerry Shen say its Eee PC running Google's Android operating system is on hold as there no clear market for the devices, which he calls ‘smartbooks'.

The company raised hopes it would soon launch an Eee PC smartbook based on chips made by Qualcomm and running Google's Android mobile operating system when such a device was displayed at the Computex Taipei electronics show in June.

But Asustek quickly put the project on the back burner, refusing to discuss it days later at a press event that featured Asustek's chairman alongside executives from microprocessor maker Intel and OS giant Microsoft.

It appears the Android device remains in deep freeze.

"Currently, I still don't see a clear market for smartbooks," said Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek Computer.

The company's backing isn't essential for smartbooks, but it would lend weight to the credibility of such devices, which use mobile phone chips and components to offer far greater battery life than existing netbooks, and potentially ubiquitous wireless connectivity. Smartbooks appear almost identical to the netbooks Asustek pioneered, mini-laptops with 8 to 10in screens.

Asustek executives have said the reason the Android smartbook was shifted to low priority was because the company's engineering resources were limited and would be used elsewhere. But Asustek could use some of the smartbooks made by contract manufacturer Pegatron , the company's subsidiary.

Several smartbooks from Pegatron were on display at Computex. The estimated retail price of the devices was about $199 (£121), compared to between £200 and £300 for a comparable netbook.

Asustek has used Intel microprocessors in all of its netbooks so far, and mainly Microsoft Windows XP as the OS, though it has sold netbooks with Linux OS's.

The advantage of netbooks is that since they use Intel x86 architecture microprocessors, they can take software used on regular PCs, while smartbooks can only use software designed for or ported to Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) processors, made by Arm Holdings. Arm processors are mainly found in mobile phones.

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See also: Google Android the star of Computex 2009


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