Software 'tweaks,' Chinese new year delay Everex CloudBook

The UMPC won't appear in U.S. stores until late February

Everex said today that its highly anticipated ultramobile CloudBook PC won't make it into U.S. consumers' hands for another month or so, as the Taiwanese vendor makes last-minute changes to its Linux-based software.

CloudBook was supposed to be available from Wal-Mart Inc. stores and the Web site today.

But in an e-mail, Everex's director of marketing, Paul Kim, said that "a couple of last-minute software tweaks" prevented the CloudBook, a competitor to rival Taiwanese AsusTek Computer Inc.'s successful Eee, from reaching stores just three weeks after its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The $399 computer runs gOS, a flavor of Linux based on the popular Ubuntu distribution but with a reworked user interface aimed at smaller screens like CloudBook's 7-in. (diagonal) display.

The upcoming Chinese New Year holidays are also delaying the CloudBook's rollout. Feb. 7 is the first day of the new year, according to an e-mail from another company spokeswoman. Workers often take off several days or even weeks before and after new year in Taiwan and China.

In response to the delay, some CloudBook watchers have already weighed in via blogs. One blogger speculated that "there are some driver issues or (even worse) some problems with the hardware itself."

In a subsequent e-mail, an Everex spokeswoman said the delay was due to "the OS being refined."

GOS is being developed by a start-up led by 22-year-old David Liu. Besides the gOS, CloudBook is supposed to run only other open-source software such as the Firefox Web browser and the OpenOffice productivity suite. It also features links to Web apps such as YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Blogger, Skype, Google Docs and Gmail.

With a conventional 30GB hard drive, CloudBook can also be installed with Windows XP or Vista, though Everex has no plans to preinstall it.

Everex had forecast that it would ship 20,000 CloudBooks in its first two months.

Besides CloudBook and the Eee, of which more than 350,000 have been sold worldwide since October, several other low-cost, Linux-based ultra-small PCs are reportedly in the works from other Taiwanese makers. Acer Inc. will release small PCs with 8-in. to 9-in. displays in the first quarter or early in the second quarter, as will Gigabyte Technology Co., which is forecasting a June release.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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