ECS Eyes 1M Netbook, Intel ClassMate PC Sales

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Taiwan computer maker Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) estimated it will ship a total of 1 million netbooks and ClassMate PCs this year, despite a late start for its netbook lineup.

The company is the contract manufacturer for the ClassMate PC, Intel's answer to the One Laptop Per Child Foundation's (OLPC) XO laptop. Both laptops are designed as low-cost laptops aimed at kids in developing nations.

The two laptops have also spawned the new product category known as netbooks, or mini-laptops, such as Asustek Computer's Eee PC. The Eee PC has been so successful in its short time on the market that now almost all PC vendors are selling their own mini-laptop.

ECS designed the G-series G10IL as its rival in the mini-notebook arena, and is also offering a lower cost series with similar components, its J-series. The top-end G-series model comes with a 10.2-inch screen and has a 3G (third generation mobile telecommunications) module on board so people can connect the Internet wirelessly over mobile phone networks. The mini-laptop also connects to Wi-Fi networks.

The G10IL runs on Intel's Atom microprocessor and buyers can choose between Microsoft Windows XP or a Linux OS.

The J-series differs in a number of ways, including options for smaller screens, such as an 8.2-inch screen, smaller hard drives, and less expensive batteries.

ECS started manufacturing ClassMate PCs last year, said Jerry Yang, a senior associate vice president at the company. The experience of building the ClassMate prompted the company to look into its own mini-laptop design, resulting in the G10IL.

The G10IL won't ship until August or September of this year, so in terms of the company's 1 million unit target, the ClassMate has a head start.

"I can't say for sure what the split will be, maybe 50-50 or perhaps more for the ClassMate," said Yang.

Intel verified that ECS was the contract manufacturer for the ClassMate PC in the Asia Pacific, but did not have a shipment target.

The ClassMate PC is being sold around the world by local PC vendors. In the Philippines, for example, Neo Manufacturing and Services is selling the ClassMate, while in Vietnam, they are being sold by CMS and in Indonesia, Zyrex and Axioo.

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