Start-up to put LindowsOS on low-cost tablets

A group of PC industry veterans has launched a company called StepUp Computing and unveiled its first product - a low-cost,...

A group of PC industry veterans has launched a company called StepUp Computing and unveiled its first product - a low-cost, pen-based tablet computer that can run Windows 2000, Windows XP and will soon be able to run a version of the Linux operating system from Lindows.com.

Several former executives of budget PC maker eMachines are behind the new venture. Their goal is to offer affordable desktop and mobile computing products that serve small and medium-sized businesses in targeted speciality and vertical markets.

StepUp Computing's first product to market will be a tablet computer called the DocuNote, which will cost as little as $799 (£503) depending on the software it ships with.

While the product is being released in concert with a host of tablet devices from vendors such as Acer and Hewlett-Packard, it does not run Microsoft's Windows XP Professional Tablet PC operating system and lacks some of the advanced features that are available with those devices, according to Microsoft.

Nor does it share the same price tag. Tablet devices running Microsoft's new operating system cost as much as $2,500.

The DocuNote weighs 2.5lbs with its battery pack, and measures about 10 inches by eight inches by one inch thick. It features an 8.4-inch touch-screen display and a built-in colour digital camera and microphone that are designed for video conferencing.

DocuNote features a 667MHz Crusoe TM5600 processor from Transmeta, 256Mbytes of memory and a 20Gbyte hard drive. It also has a slot for a wireless network card.

Unlike the new class of Tablet PCs, the device from StepUp Computing can be navigated by touching the display with any object, such as a stylus pen or your finger. It does, however, share capabilities, such as inking and handwriting recognition, with the more expensive machines.

Young Song, president and chief executive officer at StepUp Computing, was a co-founder of eMachines. Other executives at the start-up include the former director of finance and senior director of corporate communications at eMachines.

StepUp Computing is practicing a similar philosophy to that of eMachines with its strategy of keeping hardware costs at the low end of the market.

The devices are manufactured in Seoul by Garnet Systems and will only be available through select value-added resellers and systems integrators, who will be responsible for setting up and configuring the devices for customers.

StepUp Computing is now accepting orders for the DocuNote through the channel with plans to begin shipping units in mid-December. The company said it would begin selling DocuNote devices running LindowsOS 3.0 in early 2003.

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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