Eee PC Makes Hot Debut

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Asustek Computer Inc.'s low-cost laptop, Eee PC, nearly sold out on its first day on sale in Taipei.

But for one laptop hidden under a box, it would have sold out, said Lin Che-chun, a sales associate at the 3C electronics chain store in Neihu, run by Tsann Kuen Enterprise Co. Ltd. of Taiwan.

"There were people waiting for them to go on sale, and 98 of them were gone almost immediately," he said. "This one was under a box, so we didn't see it. That's the only reason we have one left today."

The Eee PC officially went on sale in Taiwan at 5 p.m. Tuesday. On Wednesday, the lone white laptop at the 3C chain store in Neihu may have been the only one still for sale on the island. Lin said another Eee PC shipment isn't expected until some time in November, and that Asustek has not said how many Eee PCs it will make available.

Lin's store received 99 units, and was chosen for its location close to the official launch Asustek staged on Tuesday.

The Eee PC is a low-cost laptop designed for children and emerging markets. It weighs less than one kilogram and has a 7-inch LCD screen. Asustek suggested a retail price of NT$11,100 (US$340) for the device, but 3C charged NT$11,650 and would sell only one laptop per customer.

The Eee PC also went on sale on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at a shopping Web site operated by PChome Online Inc. The site sold out of its stock of 50 units in 5 minutes. It was charging NT$11,655 each.

"People were excited about the laptop," said Tsai Kai-wen, assistant manager at PChome's online shopping center. "It's a new product with a unique design. It sold out fast."

It's not clear how many Eee PCs went on sale Tuesday, and neither Asustek nor 3C would respond to queries about the overall figure.

Asustek revealed three other Eee PCs on Tuesday that it plans to have on sale by the end of November. All of them run a Linux distribution from Xandros Inc. of New York. An Eee PC running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP will be released by the end of this year. The price of the XP version hasn't been announced yet.

The Eee PC sold Tuesday had a 900MHz Intel Celeron M processor, 512M bytes of DDR2 DRAM (double data rate, generation two dynamic RAM) and a 4G-byte flash drive. It included a built-in camera, speakers and a microphone allowing it to follow simple voice commands such as "computer, access the Internet," or "computer, make a phone call."

Asustek said the Eee PCs came with over 40 applications on board, including Skype Ltd.'s popular Internet telephony software, the Firefox Web browser from Mozilla, and quick links to Google Inc.'s Documents and other services. The laptops also included word processing software and several educational tools and games designed for kids.

The other three Eee PCs will carry a suggested retail price of NT$7,999, NT$9,999 and NT$13,888 when they go on sale later this year. Each carries a slightly different set of components on board.

The Eee PC is one of a new breed of low-cost laptops, a category that includes the XO developed by the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC) and Intel's Classmate PCs.

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