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