Maker: First Android netbook to cost about $250

Guangzhou Skytone's 1.5-lb. Alpha 680 also first netbook to use ARM chip

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Wu acknowledged the doubts around the Alpha 680's potential quality and performance.

He argued that the Alpha 400 has proven to be "quite durable, as the big OEMs knew how to strengthen the product during manufacturing."

And he said, comparing his computers with today's netbooks -- some of which have gotten so powerful they sport DVD drives and can support HD video -- is unfair.

Target: The rest of us

Rather than targeting affluent Western consumers, Wu's goal is to bring low-cost computing to the "80% of the world" that can't afford it today. That means villagers in Africa or farmers in China, he said, who need access to information on the Web as much as anyone else.

"Watching TV over the Internet is not the most urgent thing for them," Wu said.

Besides Skytone, Taiwanese vendors such as Asustek Computer, Acer and MSI Computer have either confirmed or are rumored to be working on netbooks or smartphones running Android, an ARM processor or both.

Hewlett-Packard Co. has confirmed its interest in Android netbooks, while Dell Inc. is said to be interested in Android smartphones.

Though Skytone is likely to be overtaken by the bigger brands when they enter the market, Wu welcomes them anyway, saying it will grow the market and benefit consumers.

"We are a for-profit company trying to make a $100 device," he said. "The more vendors that come out, then the more affordable everyone's netbooks will get."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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