Intel Tweaks Atom Netbook Designs for China

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Intel is expanding its cooperation with small Chinese PC makers as it offers partners netbook designs tweaked for niche customers in China.

The designs are part of a program targeting small PC manufacturers that aims to tap new markets for Intel's Atom microprocessor in netbooks, or ultra-portable notebooks, an Intel spokesman said Tuesday.

The program, called Hurdle, offers designs that meet specific price targets and the hardware and software requirements of Intel's Chinese partners, the spokesman said.

The designs are based on Intel's 1.6GHz Atom N270 processor and are intended for netbooks running Linux with 8.9-inch or 10.2-inch screens and priced as low as 1,750 yuan (US$256), according to Chinese media reports.

Intel sees netbooks as a "significant opportunity" in China and elsewhere, said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, speaking at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing last week.

Intel is following an industry trend by turning to small Chinese manufacturers to boost its sales in a troubled economy, said Simon Ye, an analyst at Gartner.

Small Chinese PC makers have a tarnished image and are known in local slang as "mountain stronghold" firms for quality problems and generic brand names one might expect of companies found in undeveloped areas.

That reputation discouraged hardware providers from dealing with the firms until the recent rise of netbooks made low-cost products essential, Ye said. PCs from small manufacturers in China sell best to cost-sensitive consumers often outside of booming coastal cities.

But "mountain stronghold" netbooks doing well in the recession may not remain popular in China for long, Ye said. Users will still be willing to pay more for a netbook from another firm if quality issues afflict the small brands, he said.

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