Next-gen netbooks to get 3G HSDPA for mobile internet

While MSI is easily the least-known of the netbook brands its Wind mini-note has earned a legion of fans. But the Taiwanese hardware manufacturer doesn’t want to be a one-trick pony in the pint-sized portable market. In a fascinating interview with US publication Laptop Magazine MSI’s Director of US Sales Andy Tung reveals what’s next for the Wind brand.

First up the 10 inch Wind U100 is getting a mid-life upgrade. From this month US customers will be able to buy a beefed-up US$479 model with standard six cell battery with the hard drive doubled to 160GB and the addition of 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Tung also speaks of the high return rate for Wind netbooks running Linux which he said was “at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks”. Noting some criticisms of MSI’s chosen SUSE Linux distro Tung says “we are working on some of the issues with the SUSE Linux and even continue to explore other flavors of Linux. We have discussed Ubuntu with a Mac OS type of look and feel. We are talking to different suppliers to figure out the best user experience.”

MSI will also seek to push the Wind brand into the business market with what Tung calls the ‘Wind 2’ although the official model designation is the Wind U120. This is due for release “by the end of November or early December” Tung says.

“The U100 is perfect for consumers like teenagers and families but we think it’s too cute for business users. The U120 looks more like a business type of solution: it doesn’t include the round corners but more a square-like look. We were thinking more of a ThinkPad type of a design. I can say that the industrial design is totally different than the original Wind.”

Like the U100 the U120 will have a 10 inch screen and 1GB of RAM (due to Microsoft’s OEM licence restrictions for installing XP on a netbook) but will include 3G HSDPA. “The original design had WiMax but WiMax implementation isn’t as fast as we would like it to be” Tung admits. At launch the U120 will be available only with a hard drive but Tung says MSI “will offer a solid state option at a later date”.