The Alpha 680 from Skytone is the first commercial netbook to use the open source Android platform from Google.
While many companies are dubious as to the utility of Google's open source Android platform on anything but a smartphone handset, China's Skytone believes that it has a future in the netbook sector – and has created the first commercial version.
According to an article over on Tom's Hardware
, the company has officially announced the Alpha 680 to its product lineup. Based around the Android platform, the device deviates massively from the standard netbook offerings of many companies – which may or may not be a good thing.
Based around the ARM-II 533MHz CPU with a not exactly capacious 128MB DDR2 – 256MB upgrade optional – the Alpha 680 isn't going to be challenging an Atom based unit to a benchmark challenge any time soon. The screen is a step back from the higher resolution models we're used to seeing, too, at just 800x480 and a 7” diagonal. Interestingly, however, the display is touch sensitive – and can rotate and flip to turn the unit into a tablet. Skytone has even thought to include a set of controls next to the screen to turn the unit into a rather bulky portable games console.
The Alpha 680 comes with the ports you would expect from a netbook: VGA output, 10/00 Ethernet, SD card reader, audio out and microphone in, a trio of USB ports, and – interestingly – a composite video output. A stylus for the resistive touchscreen is included in a slot on the front of the netbook.
Storage is a trifle poor, with just a 1GB NAND flash drive as standard – upgradable to 4GB at an optional cost. The device has integral 801.22b/g WiFi – and appears to have room for a 3G modem to be added at a later date.
Available in five colours, the most surprising thing about the Alpha 680 is the price – just $100. While it won't be winning any performance challenges, the lightweight Android platform ensures that it will at least be usable for basic tasks – and isn't that what a netbook is for?
Do you think that the future of netbooks is cut-down ultra-low-cost devices such as Skytone's latest offering, or will they continue their evolution into miniature notebooks – with pricetags to match? Share your thoughts over in the forums