Asus prepping $199 EeeBook Reader?

Two years ago Asus turned the computing industry on its head with the creation of the Eee PC – a pint-sized low-cost laptop designed to be ‘good enough’ for the tasks which 80% of PC users performed 80% of the time.

The Taiwanese colossus hopes to repeat that success when it unveils its Eee Reader before Christmas.

Part of the Eee family the Eee Reader is suspected to be built using standard netbook components from Intel’s Atom platform such as the compact low-power ‘Silverthorne’ Z-series CPU.

(If that turns out to be the case we suspect a second-gen model will transition to Intel’s two-chip ‘Pine Trail’ Atom platform before mid-2010 as the two-chip system will be far better suited to combining slim design with long battery life).

But while the insides appear quite predictable the outside is anything but. Prototype designs show a device with two colour screens and a central hinge. It’s a deliberate attempt to give eBooks a reassuringly familiar form although the notion of ‘turning pages’ seems odd.

However because the screens run independent of each other one display can show text from an ebook while the other contains associated multimedia material or is even used to jump online and look up related information.

Indeed the device could also be used as a tablet PC or a netbook where the keyboard is an iPhone-style virtual QWERTY pad.

In an interview with The Sunday Times an unnamed Asus spokesman says the company is considering producing two models.

The budget version is said to be aimed around the £100 (approx A$199) mark and may adopt the more conventional single-screen design and possibly a mono e-ink display.

“According to Asus president Jerry Shen the Eee Reader will become the planet’s cheapest e-book reader” says the article.

A more fully-featured model could well feature “speakers a webcam and a mic for Skype” according to Asus along with inbuilt 3G and expandable storage via a memory card slot. This is also likely to be the dual-screen model.