Sony Appears Ready to Ship Via-based Mini-laptop

Sony appears ready to release a small, low-cost laptop that uses a processor from Via Technologies.

A prototype of the laptop, based on the open-source Via OpenBook reference design announced last week, was shown by contract manufacturer Quanta Computer at WiMax Expo, an exhibition being held alongside the annual Computex show in Taipei.

The laptop will begin shipping during the third quarter, Quanta said.

A check of the laptop's properties confirmed the laptop is based on a 1.6GHz C7-M processor from Via and listed Sony as the manufacturer. When the existence of Sony's name on the machine was pointed out to a Quanta executive manning the booth, he quickly closed the properties window and declined to explain why Sony was listed as the manufacturer.

Sony executives were not immediately available for comment.

Quanta, the world's largest maker of laptop computers, produces machines for many of the world's biggest brands and is typically bound by contracts that do not allow the company to discuss its customers. However, computers produced under contract normally list the customer as the manufacturer rather than the actual producer.

If the prototype laptop is indeed being produced for Sony, that is a significant boost for Via.

Via has recently gained ground in the processor market with its C7 chips, which are well-suited to low-cost laptops despite being less powerful than high-end mobile chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. Via faces growing competition in this segment from Intel's Atom processor line, but has continued to win more orders with designs like Hewlett-Packard's Mini-Note 2133.

The OpenBook reference design was developed by Via to reduce design cycles for system makers that want to use the company's C7-M processor.

The OpenBook is based on Via's 1.6 GHz C7-M processor and VX800 chipset. The design includes an 8.9-inch screen with a resolution of 1,024 pixels by 600 pixels and calls for a hard disk with a capacity of 80G bytes or more. The basic wireless module included in the design supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Optional modules include Assisted GPS (AGPS), WiMax, and support for 3G (third generation telephony) cellular networks.

The OpenBook-based prototype shown by Quanta was running Windows Vista Home Basic. Specifications of the machine include a 60G-byte hard disk, 1G byte of memory, and WiMax support.

-- Dan Nystedt in Taipei contributed to this story.

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