After months as the subject of speculation in the media, Acer will introduce its own low-cost mini-laptop PC at the Computex trade show in Taipei today.
The device will be called the Acer Aspire One, as expected. It will come with an Intel Atom processor, and run Linpus Linux Lite, with Acer's own user interface. Other specs include: an 8GB solid-state drive, 512MB of RAM, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, an 8.9-inch screen, and a standard 3-hour battery.
The Aspire One will be available in the US from 2 July for $379 (£190). Later that month, a version running Windows XP Home Edition with an 80GB hard drive, and 1GB of RAM will be available, though the pricing details on that have yet to be ironed out. UK prices and availability are expected to be announced later today.
As this niche of computing begins to become more crowded, the specs are beginning to look more or less the same. Price and little details like keyboard and exterior design are going to be the most distinguishing factors.
Although it will be more than £190 in the UK, based on US prices, the Aspire One is likely to be cheaper than the runaway hit Eee PC from Asus, whose 9-inch version begins at £329 for the Linux version, and the £355 Linux-based Hewlett-Packard Mini-Note 2133.
Besides pearl white, Acer also plans to offer a bright blue version, and eventually pink and brown. The keyboard isn't quite as large as the Mini-Note's 92 per cent keyboard, coming in at 89 per cent of the standard size keyboard for a 14-inch laptop.
But just like its direct competitors, Acer sees two distinct customers for the Aspire One: school children and the highly mobile tech-savvy set.
Acer's plan it seems is to use its Aspire One as sort of a gateway-PC for the uninitiated PC user.
"It's a great device that is a stepping stool to a first-time notebook [laptop] user," said Sumit Agnihotry, director of notebook product management for Acer America. That way kids can "bypass the desktop completely (and move) to a notebook in less than 18 months."
And if there's something Acer's become good at lately, it's moving laptops. It sells more laptops than every other computer maker except for HP.
Acer says it sees the mini laptop as a third device for geeked-out consumers after a smart phone and a standard laptop PC, claiming that "it's much more a single application with an Internet-centric focus," Agnihotry said.
But is it more devices we're after? Or fewer? The genius of the smart phone is how much it can do. With the $379 price point not all that far removed from some of Acer's more inexpensive full-size laptops, is selling someone on the lack of features of the Aspire One really the way to win customers?
It's clearly not for the mainstream PC users, who generally expect the best features and latest-generation processors when purchasing a new PC. But the company doesn't seem to see any overlap between those customers, saying it doesn't expect this will "cannibalise" its current laptop business at all. -Erica Ogg
Stay tuned for a full hands-on photo story with the Acer Aspire One in Crave later today.
Update: Read our full Acer Aspire One review.