Asus Preps Multimedia 'PC Within a Keyboard'

Taiwan's AsusTek Computer Inc. early this summer plans to launch the most radical member of its popular Eee family of petite PCs, a full multimedia computer encased in a sleek keyboard that includes a 5-in. LCD touch screen.

With its 800-by-480 resolution screen, the slim, aluminum-encased Eee Keyboard PC can be used as stand-alone computer. But Asus expects most users of the Wi-Fi enabled computer to hook it up to an external monitor or television, making it possible for people to quickly turn any screen in the house into a Web surfing station or multimedia center.

First announced at the International CES show in January, the 2-lb. Asus Keyboard PC was also on display at the CeBIT trade show earlier this month, according to a five-minute YouTube video posted this week by gadget blog UMPCportal.com. Asus Chairman Jonney Shih reportedly said at CeBIT that the Keyboard PC will arrive in June.

Asus established the netbook market in the fall of 2007 when it introduced its original Eee PC. Since then, it has launched a wide variety of Eee netbook models, as well as net-top miniature desktop PCs such as its Mac Mini-like Eee Box and its Eee Top, a touch-screen all-in-one PC with an LCD monitor.

The Keyboard PC is Asus' most innovative offering in the net-top, or small desktop PC, category. Like its netbook and net-top Eees, the Keyboard PC will be powered by an Intel Atom N270 1.6-GHz processor. It will come with 1GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of solid-state disk storage.

It will run Windows XP Home Edition and will come with 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.0 wireless connectivity. It sports wide, flat keys that are similar to those on Apple Inc.'s MacBook Pro, and it appears -- judging from UMPCportal.com's video -- to be able to run just on battery power, like a notebook computer.

As it did with its original 7-in. LCD Eee netbook, Asus has created a user interface optimized for the Keyboard PC's small onboard screen. Called EeeFun, it features icons that are so large that even sausage-fingered users can press them.

Though optimized for Web surfing, the Keyboard PC also works as a media center PC, allowing users to watch movies on home-theater-style TVs or listen to music. Users might also choose to add an external DVD drive via a USB port, or stream video from a home server or network-attached drive via the Keyboard PC's Wi-Fi.

The Keyboard PC's price will reportedly start at about $400 for the model with VGA connectivity and scale up to $600 for one that can wirelessly connect to HDMI televisions.

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