Asus is getting ready for a summer launch of a Netbook priced between $200 and $250, according to a report in Digitimes today.
Digitimes' source is a components manufacturer that supplies Asus with parts for its computers. That source believes the new mini notebook with have either Google's Chrome OS or Android 3.0 to keep the cost of the device lower than the recent spate of tablets that have hit or are about to hit the market.
Android 3.0 seems rather unlikely since it was specifically designed for tablet use, and therefore includes a touch-screen interface--Google has been upfront about the fact that Chrome OS is designed for Netbooks, and Android for phones and tablets. Asus is also one of several PC maker partners that said they were interested in putting Chrome OS on their hardware.
In all its talk about Chrome OS, Google has never said how much it expects the hardware that carries it to cost. It has a spec sheet for hardware partners to follow, which would certainly allow them to at least offer a ballpark figure based on those specs, yet Google has refused to reveal it.
It's likely strategic, since when Google introduced Chrome OS it was so far from when products were expected to be ready, that the price of components like chips and memory could change. But more likely, the competitive environment for Chrome OS Netbooks would change.
And it has. While Asus and whomever else (Acer?) could have charged $400 or $500 for a Chrome OS Netbook a year and a half ago, when Apple is selling the iPad at $499, that's just not feasible anymore. We got a peek at a prototype when Google passed out some Cr-48 Netbooks at a press event for the Chrome Web store in December. The general reaction was subdued, obviously noting that it's hard to render a verdict on a not-yet-final product, yet wary of a consumer version being priced over $500.
So $200 to $250 for a mini notebook with an Atom processor that boots to the Chrome browser? That sounds about right.