ECS Signs Netbook Deals With European Mobile Operators

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Taiwanese computer maker Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) has already signed up wireless service providers in Europe to distribute its G10IL netbook, which should be in stores by September or October, an ECS executive said Tuesday.

ECS took a slightly different approach with its G10IL than other mini-notebook makers. The device runs on an Intel Atom microprocessor and comes with either Microsoft Windows XP or a Linux OS, but a major difference is that it also comes with a 3G (third-generation) module on board so people can connect to the Internet wirelessly over mobile phone networks. The mini-laptop also connects to Wi-Fi networks.

Since it has 3G connectivity -- HSDPA and HSUPA (High Speed Downlink/Uplink Packet Access) -- the laptop can be bundled with a 3G contract from a service provider.

The mini-laptop will likely cost around US$500, said Jerry Yang, senior associate vice president at ECS, but pricing is entirely up to his customers. ECS is a contract manufacturer, so it provides the mini-notebooks directly to operators. He declined to say which companies have already inked agreements with ECS.

But any 3G service provider could subsidize a portion of the cost of the netbook for people willing to sign a new contract.

The $500 price is for a top-end G-series model, which comes with a 10.2-inch screen, six-cell battery for around five to six hours of run time, an 80G-byte hard disk drive (HDD), a Web cam, 2G bytes of DRAM, a 1.6GHz Atom microprocessor and Windows XP. Different configurations, including substituting a Linux OS, will cost less.

People interested in the new laptops need not look for the ECS brand, however. The laptops will likely be marketed under the names of the mobile service providers.

"We don't promote the ECS brand, we're a contract manufacturer," said Yang.

The company will also ship a line of lower-cost netbooks similar to the G-series. ECS's J-series will come with options for smaller screens, HDDs with less capacity, less expensive batteries and other features meant to reduce the price of the devices. Yang said J-series netbooks could be around $100 less than the G-series, depending on the configuration and whether a user wants 3G connectivity.

The G10IL was made to compete in 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.

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