March 28, 2007 12:03 am

Quanta launches ultra-low-cost PCs

Quanta Computer, the world’s largest manufacturer of notebook computers, will start making ultra-low-cost computers that could be sold in developed markets for as little as $200 this year or the next, according to its president.

The Taiwanese contract manufacturer is already producing a laptop developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers that will be distributed to children in third-world countries – under a non-profit project called One Laptop Per Child – for as little as $150.

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But Michael Wang, Quanta’s president, said on Tuesday that the concepts developed through the OLPC project could be applied to create commercially viable machines that are cheaper than anything on the market so far.

“We will definitely at the right time launch a commercialised product similar to the OLPC,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times, adding that several of Quanta’s customers were seeking to launch such a product.

Quanta designs and manufactures the computers sold by the world’s largest branded companies, including HP, Dell and Acer.

Mr Wang’s remarks follow Dell’s launch last week of a desktop computer in China selling for as little as $336. Other big technology companies have also announced plans to give more people in low-income countries access to computers, including Intel’s low-cost “classmate” PC and computer kiosks supported by Microsoft.

But Mr Wang said the low-cost machines would not remain limited to developing markets. “There are a lot of poor people in developed countries, too,” he said.

Quanta has now created a new business unit for “emerging PCs” with the explicit aim of creating a new market for the low-cost machines.

He said the cheapest models were likely to be sold without hard disks, have small screens and run on open-source software, like the OLPC version.

Alvin Kwock, an analyst at JP Morgan in Taipei, said:

“OLPC has kick-started a debate over the question: What is needed in a PC?” He estimated that the new ultra-low-cost machines could expand the global PC market, which now measures 250m units a year, by as much as 10 per cent.

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