A Profusion of Minis

For a product category that has yet to prove that it has a real market, there sure are a lot of low-cost mini-PCs being announced. With the Computex show in Taiwan as the spur, it seems that nearly every computer manufacturer has now announced a sub-$500 laptop with a sub-10-in. display, and those that haven’t soon will.

In recent days, Via, whose C7 processor powers many of the minis, announced a reference platform called the OpenBook. Acer announced its long-expected Aspire one. And Asus, whose Eee PC got the category rolling, announced an update based on Intel’s new Atom processor. UPDATE 6/3 MSI also introduced its Atom-based Wind.

Maybe it's all a plot to keep Windows XP alive. To prevent a mass defection of these products to Linux, Microsoft has said it will continue to make XP available after its June 30 retail cutoff date, to these low-cost, low-power systems that simply don;t have the horsepower to run the newer operating system well.

But it's not all about Vista, Perhaps the oddest recent announcement came from nVIDIA, which is promoting its new TEGRA system-on-a-chip as a solution for mini-notebooks. The oddity is that TEGRA is built around an ARM processor (and, of course, an nVIDIA graphics processing unit) as a solution for mini-notes. The trouble is that neither Windows XP nor any consumer-friendly Linux distributions run on ARM. So if nVIDIA has its way, we'll have to get ready for the Windows Mobile mini-note.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.