$549 Eee PC 900 to hit U.S. May 12

But not all models are created equal

Asustek Computer Inc. on Friday confirmed that it will launch the Eee PC 900 in the U.S. on May 12 and that it will set $549 as the list price for the new ultralight notebook.

The Eee PC 900, which the Taipei-based computer maker unveiled last Tuesday, can be configured with either Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Home or the open-source Linux operating system. The price for both configurations, said an Asustek spokesman, is identical: $549.

But there are differences. Users who purchase an Eee PC 900 with Linux will receive a laptop that boasts 20GB of flash memory-based storage space. However, customers who opt for Windows XP will end up with a machine equipped with only 12GB of solid-state storage.

When asked why the two models pack different quantities of storage space -- and whether the lesser amount was stuck in the XP version because of the licensing fees Asustek must pay to Microsoft -- Asustek spokesman Charlton Ho called it a "strategic decision."

"Cost would be one of the reasons, but not the main one," Ho said in an e-mail. He then proceeded to trumpet the Linux-based system. "Also, [the] Linux version is our main Eee PC model with our unique interface, so the consumer not only can get the great and easy-to-use interface on the Linux version but extra storage space," Ho added.

Both Windows and Linux models pack an 8.9-in. screen, 1GB of system memory, a 1.3-megapixel camera and an Apple MacBook Air-style multi-touch track pad.

This is the second ultralight line from Asustek that offers XP as an option; it currently sells a Eee PC with a 7-in. display in the U.S. for $399.

Window XP, which is to disappear as an option on most new computers after June 30, was granted a reprieve of sorts two weeks ago, when Microsoft said it would allow resellers building what it called ultralow-cost PC (ULCPC) laptops to preinstall XP Home until the end of June 2010.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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