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Tablet PC enters mass production

First International Computer (FIC) is on the verge of beginning mass production of a tablet PC based on Transmeta's Crusoe microprocessor, more than a year after first unveiling samples of the device.

The AquaPad tablet PC is based on a Crusoe 5400 processor running at 500MHz and will be available in two versions: one running Microsoft's Windows CE and the other running the Midori Linux operating system.

Allen Chen, a sales account manager for FIC, speaking at the current World PC Expo exhibition near Tokyo, said that mass production would start this month. Samples of the device should be available towards the end of September, with a Japanese language version available in October.

The company will not be directly selling the AquaPad but supplying it as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) product to larger vendors. Chen said talks were currently underway with Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Sotec, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, but no deals have been signed.

When the AquaPad does go on sale, the estimated street price is will be around $599 (£409). "We are aiming for a price somewhere between a PDA and notebook computer," Chen said.

Other specifications of the machine include 128Mbytes of memory, an 8.4in colour TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) touch panel with SVGA (800 by 600 pixel) resolution, 2 USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports, a PC Card slot, Compact Flash slot and infrared port. The computer weighs 1kg and measures 275 by 168 by 27mm.

Battery life of the machine is between 2.5 and 3 hours in use and as long as 24 hours in standby mode.

The computer was first unveiled as an engineering sample at the Computex 2000 show in Taipei last year. Since then, the machine has been given a faster processor, more memory and a larger screen, but has also got a little larger and heavier.

FIC is one of a number of Taiwanese companies to have invested in Transmeta.

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