VIA Openbook Mini-Note. Detailed Report. Images. Q&A.

Posted on 27 May 2008 by



VIA_OpenBook_3_M (Small)With a launch obviously timed to coincide with Computex next week and positioned to take advantage of the incredible growth in the low-cost mobile notebook market, the OpenBook Mini-Note, on first look, seems to be a much better product opportunity than the Nanobook was. While the Nanobook and Eee PC launched together one year ago, it was the Eee PC that stole the show based largely on price indicators but also on looks. With the OpenBook Mini-Note, VIA appeared to have attended to the important issue of aesthetics and using what looks like it could be a masterstroke in the pin-compatible Isaiah CPU, extended the market placement from low-cost netbook right up into an area of the market that neither Intel’s Atom or Core can currently operate in. Low cost, highly mobile Vista notebooks. Read on for images, video, Q&A and analysis.

Images

Click the images for the full-size version in the gallery.

 VIA_OpenBook_8_M (Small)VIA_OpenBook_7_M (Small)VIA_OpenBook_4_M (Small)

VIA_OpenBook_3_M (Small)VIA_OpenBook_2_M (Small)VIA_OpenBook_1_M (Small)

VIA_OpenBook_6_M (Small)VIA_OpenBook_5_M (Small)

Specifications
  • 8.9" screen @ 1024×600. Not the highest res possible on the 8.9" screen but presumably a trade-off between cost and features. The PPI at this resolution should appeal to a wider age-range of customers.
  • VIA C7-M at 1.6Ghz. Within the specifications laid down by Microsoft for cheap versions of XP after June 30th this year.
  • Memory up to 2GB
  • Storage options for HDD and flash.
  • VX800 Chipset. The latest integrated north/southbridge with hardware acceleration for many common video formats.
  • Dual internal module options. One that will support Wifi, Bluetooth and an option for A-GPS. The second, free for a 3G module. (Wi-Max, HSDPA, EV-DO/W-CDMA)
  • Three USB ports, VGA out, 4-in-1 card reader, dual-head web cam (Forward and rear facing) and audio in/out jacks
  • 4-cell, 2600mah battery providing up to 3 hours life.
  • Size: 240mmx175x36.2(max) which is slightly larger than the Eee PC 900 but smaller than the HP 2133 Mini-Note
  • Weight will be 1KG
  • VIAOpenBook specifications page
  • UMPCPortal specifications and links page
Video

In the video above you’ll hear Richard Brown talk about the key features of the Openbook and highlight the fact that the CAD design files will be available for OEMs.

Analysis

I mentioned the VIA Isaiah CPU before but you won’t find it in any of the OpenBook material. VIA might be holding this back for a later release because its fairly obvious that the OpenBook is capable of running Isaiah and offering costing, processing power and efficiency enough for a real low-cost, mobile Vista experience. That’s something that Atom is not really designed for and that Core CPUs could be too power-hungry and expensive to achieve in a small, cheap notebook. The two main features of the device are:

  • The CAD files for the hardware design will be available to OEMS under CC 3.0 license which will help reduce cost and time-to-market.
  • There are two internal module options. This provides excellent flexibility for radio options. Just slot in a new module and you have a 3G-enabled product for your market. This is a first for mininotes and important for the emerging mobile Internet and web-worker market.

I see a stylish device that can compete in the ULCPC space (XP Home, sub $500) with the VIA C7-M and the enhanced VX800 chipset and very importantly, a device that can create a brand new space for low-cost premium Vista and 3G-enabled devices when combined with an Isaiah CPU in the future. VIA will need to focus on that Isaiah USP though because that’s where they could cause an upset for Intel.

Q&A

I asked Timothy Brown, International Marketing Manger for VIA a few questions about the OpenBook and here’s what he said.

When will we see devices based on this platform in the market?

Actually we already have customers lined up who are adopting the VIA OpenBook reference design but unfortunately I cannot comment on their launch schedules as that is up to them.

Does the OpenBook fall within Microsofts ULCPC definition enabling your
customers to ship the device with XP?

You will be able to see the VIA OpenBook on display at Computex at Microsoft’s booth running Windows XP.

This launch highlights another move in the netbook direction, can
you update us on Mobile-ITX which was announced a year ago and is seen
as important for ultra mobile devices.

Sorry no comment at this time.

So it looks like the OpenBook Mininote could launch fairly quickly and I’d expect to see some designs at Computex. Pricing is obviously up to VIA’s customers but lets take the HP 2133 as a yardstick here and expect 3G-enabled devices to sit well below $1000. In the long-run, we could see relatively powerful Vista-based versions but the timescale will totally depend on Isaiah. Again,  expect to hear more about that next week at Computex.

As for Mobile-ITX and the ultra mobile device market, perhaps VIA have slightly changed priorities on that one although it wouldn’t make sense to announce that this week at the carnival of the low cost notebooks in Taiwan!

VIA_OpenBook_8_M (Small)Opinion from around the net.

CrunchGear takes a negative stance:

…let’s just call this an advertisement for a mobile computing platform and leave it at that.

 Engadget had some hands-on:

Our two main gripes are the seeming thickness of the device — 1.4-inches might be par for the course, but with this small of a laptop it seems awkwardly thick — and the itty-bitty, cheap-looking keyboard that doesn’t utilize the whole width of the laptop….we’re quite impressed that VIA’s crammed as much inside the OpenBook as it has, and perks like 3G / 4G connectivity, a trio of USB ports and a media card reader are making that MacBook Air look positively last century

Gizmodo has hands-on and writes:

They haven’t signed an agreement with a US manufacturer yet, but they do have a bunch of international makers onboard, and we should start seeing product in July or August.

Liliputing.

It’s not clear whether PC makers will be able to replace the C7-M processor with a shiny new VIA Isaiah processor once VIA releases the low-power successor to the C7-M. But I’m going to make a wild guess and say yes. Or at least probably. Or maybe. While I’ve got my prognostication hat on, I’m also going to guess that more Asus Eee PCs will be sold in the next year or two than all the OpenBook-based computers combined.

More information

Keep checking back on the UMPCPortal OpenBook product page where we currently have all the specs, some links and a video. There are also links to related products and the whole page will be kept up to date with information and links as we find them.

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Anonymous Reader says:

    As I just commented on jkk’s site – Needs to incorporated the OLPC power saving technology… 20 hour E-reader, Dual mode LCD… long battery, low power use option.

    Mobile = long battery use for the light weight processing needs of the mobile user, road warrior, bring it to the coffee sport, or for the student who will need it for an 8 hour class day (class time and homework usage needs).

    Oh – also jkk’s touch screen too (but with the Moblin, Maemo, Ubuntu Mobile platform and not the XP as Microsoft will not allow touch screen with these devices and have XP on at the same time)!

    Amended for here only… the real news/interview you could do is to ask Mary Lou Jepsen if she/her company, has licensed any of the OLPC power saving tech to anyone yet, if so then who? For the news on the licensing the she is doing then see:
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20080107182525297

  2. Anonymous Reader says:

    PS – you should interview Mary Lou Jepsen, as a guest, on one of your future pod casts (jkk and skippy with Mary Lou).

  3. JC says:

    Things worth noting:

    If manufacturers put an Isaiah into it, it will likely fall outside Microsoft’s specs for a ULCPC. i.e., no cheap XP. Putting in Vista will undoubtedly raise the price.

    An Isaiah is likely more expensive than a C7M. We also don’t know anything about Isaiah’s power consumption profile (other than reports of a 1GHz version with a 3.5W TDP).

    The result may still be a low cost device. (I have no idea one way or the other.) However, it will likely be more expensive than the C7M version.

    Finally, why would Engadget compare any device that is 1.4″ thick to the MacBook Air? The MacBook Air is for people who want a really thin laptop and willing to pay extra for it. That doesn’t seem like the target audience of these Via Openbook Mini-Notes.

  4. Will says:

    Hmm.. would I rather buy an Openbook or an Atom-based platform which uses half the electrical power, has twice the processing power and produces far less heat. How will I ever decide?

    How much longer is Via going to keep pushing the extremely outdated C7? In other news… Intel releases a new ultra-mobile laptop based on the revolutionary low-power 486!

    Oh well at least it is not as fugly as the Nanobook.

  5. Anonymous Reader says:

    Mary Lou’s tech company is Pixel Qi

    see:
    http://www.pixelqi.com/products
    Quote:
    ” *
    Sunlight Readable Screens

    The XO laptop has a low-cost, low-power and sunlight readable screen. This screen can be made in mainstream notebook computer size, or smaller for the digital cameras, cell phones and PDAs. Pixel Qi is improving these screens – to make them more readable than the existing OLPC displays, much lower power, and with vastly improved saturated color. Contact admin@pixelqi.com for more information
    *
    INTEGRATED TOUCHSCREENS

    Touch should just be an incremental cost increase to the screen and embedded directly into it. Pixel Qi is working on low-cost approachs to integrated touch with a target of a $5 -$10 pricetag
    *
    EPAPER Look – with COlor And VIdeo

    The XO screen is sunlight readable, but hard to read in dim roomlight without the backlight on. Pixel Qi has new inventions that can transform this situation. The screen with the backlight off can appear as bright and crisp as paper, but also supports full video speed playback and color. The paper-like look to the screen is desirable. We want to be able to comfortably read off of our screens – with this innovation we finally will be able to”.
    END QUOTE

    Pixel Qi is a company set up to license this tech, and with the idea to license it so that it is available in very inexpensive portable computing devices.

    The licensing for OLPC tech, and newer, is available right now!

  6. chippy says:

    Will
    Atom uses very old in-order processing tech, like the C7 so in a way, you could say that Intel is going back a long way by producing the Atom!
    Steve

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