Asustek To Expand Eee Brand


Taipei (Taiwan) - Asustek, best known these days for its mini-laptop Eee PC, is moving to expand Eee brand with an iMac rival, a wireless gaming controller and a mini-desktop PC. Expect new products to hit our shores beginning in August.

It seems that previous rumors of Asustek planning to cash in on the Eee PC craze with a rapid product expansion surrounding the brand were accurate. The manufacturer confirmed it will launch the Eee Monitor in September, an all-in-one computer built into a monitor designed to challenge Apple’s iMac concept, the Eee Box mini-desktop PC for internet-related activities and the Eee Stick gaming controller.

Beating the iMac on price

It appears that Eee Monitor attracts the most attention at this time. Instead of offering innovative hardware features, the device is squarely aiming for iMac customers and will challenge Apple’s system with a lower price - which sounds like a sound strategy to us, since the Eee brand has become widely identified with low cost. In fact, Asustek has created a whole new market by selling aggressively priced products.

However, building an all-in-one desktop is a completely different ball game than pushing low-cost mini-laptops that were marketed on the back of the OLPC initiative. Besides engineering challenges, there is the fact that buyers of desktop systems are less likely to trade features for price. There is no information on Eee Monitor hardware features. However, it seems clear that it may not match the iMac feature set in order to hit a substantially lower price point.

Asustek does not make a secret out of its intentions to launch the Eee Monitor to monetize on the all-in-one desktop computer concept that worked so well for Apple. The company thinks the concept makes even more sense for PC manufactures since PCs are more expandable than Apple’s computers, which typically don’t allow for any hardware upgrades beyond memory expansion (exception Mac Pro). For example, users can’t upgrade the iMac or Mac mini with a new graphics card or processor.

Eee Box set-top box

Essentially a mini-desktop PC resembling the iMac mini and compact PCs that were fashionable in 2006, the Eee Box has a small footprint with the size of a hardcover book. Asustek pitches this product primarily as being suited for wireless internet surfing, although a closer look at the hardware specifications reveal that Asustek could potentially turn the system into a set-top box or an Apple TV-like device. Inside the white box, Asus uses an Intel Atom processor and 802.11n wireless connectivity. The computer also has Memory Stick, SD and MMC memory card slots and four USB ports - two in the front and two in the back. The design and hardware specifications suggest that Asus is aiming for a market that Apple tried to address with the Mac mini. To us, however, this device would look much more promising as a set-top box device for the family room.

Users can opt for hard drives with 80 or 250 GB of capacity and choose between Windows XP and Linux as operating systems. The Eee Box will sell for prices between $200 and $300, depending on the configuration of the device. The aggressive pricing could make the Eee Box a viable alternative to Apple’s $600 Mac mini.

Wireless gaming with Eee Stick

Another Eee device will be a wireless PC gaming controller set dubbed Eee Stick. It integrates motion similar to Nintendo’s Wii controller and comes as a pair of nunchucks. It is rumored that the left nunchuck device will be able to function as a 3D mouse. The Eee Stick will be a PC-exclusive device so it won’t be compatible with consoles.

Asustek said it will start bundling the controller with the upcoming Eee Box mini-desktop and Eee PC mini-laptops. The controller will be sold separately sometimes next year. Including five to eight games, the Eee Stick will sell for $70.