Taiwan-based VIA Technologies has released a new hardware design for a low-cost laptop computer, making it available under an open-source license. Called the OpenBook, the company said its design "introduces a host of new innovations," including more advanced computing and multimedia features, an 8.9-inch screen, and video-playback support.
Vista, XP, Linux
Screen resolutions up to 1,024x600 are supported, as is the high-performance VIA Chrome9 3-D graphics processor. There is also video acceleration for the MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV9, VC-1, and DiVX video formats; an HD-capable video processor and eight-channel HD audio; three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port, and audio-in/audio-out jacks; and a 2-megapixel dual-headed camera and a four-in-one card reader.
The design is based on the VIA C7-M ULV processor and a new, all-in-one VIA VX800 digital-media IGP chipset. Supported operating systems include Windows Vista Basic, Windows XP, and various Linux distributions. The platform has up to 2GB DDR2 DRAM, with a variety of hard disk drives and solid-state storage possibilities.
The OpenBook also has what the company called "a flexible internal interface" for high-speed wireless connectivity that offers WiMAX, HSDPA, or EV-DO/W-CDMA. There's also support for a full keyboard and a four-cell battery with up to three hours of power.
Richard Brown, VIA's vice president of corporate marketing, said the OpenBook "builds on the great success of the VIA NanoBook reference design launched last year," which has been adopted worldwide.
Creative Commons License
The computer-assisted design, or CAD, files of the reference design are being made available for OEMs, system integrators and broadband service providers under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license. Computer makers can create their own external look and feel, as befits the needs of their markets. Under the terms of the license, the CAD files can be copied, shared and modified without financial obligations to VIA.
However, the design would need to be credited to VIA, and changes to the design can be distributed only under the same Creative Commons license, or a similar one.
Doug Bell, an analyst with industry research firm IDC, said the OpenBook offers a "nice design that is VIA's attempt to get its foot in the door" for ultra-portable, low-cost notebook computers.
Bell said it is "too early to tell" about the possible success of VIA's offering, but he pointed out that there is a "lot of growth" in the ultra-low-cost end of portable computers. He noted the Asus Eee PC as one example, and said most major vendors will be coming out with products in that category.
According to news reports, VIA executives are suggesting that a system based on OpenBook would probably cost between $500 and $800.