Everex’s first $399 ultraportable CloudBook is set to go on sale on February 15 at Walmart.com. The low-cost laptop takes direct aim at Asus’ Eee PC. But will Everex’s larger hard drive, better web-cam and a new improved Linux OS outshine the popular Eee PC? The Asus system has already sold close to 400,000 units. Paul C. Kim, Director of Marketing at Everex, isn’t the least bit worried. The specs of the first-generation CloudBook are well-known, but Kim told us what future revisions will bring to the table later this year. Some of the highlights include:
Kim thinks the CloudBook will knock the socks off the EeePC. Not his words exactly, but read the full interview after the jump to find out more… Many comparisons have been made between the CloudBook and Eee PC. How do you feel your system stacks up and do you feel as though it will enjoy similar success or perhaps even more success? Why? I think we anticipate at least equal success. At least for the fact that we out-spec their product. We have 30GB; they don’t. We have digital video out; they don’t. We built in a high quality webcam; they didn’t. We have a [4-in-1] media card reader; they don’t. Keyboard and screen size are the same, but we do out-spec them at the current price point. We did consider going with a solid state device, but people said at this point in time they preferred more internal storage. They realized they wouldn’t need as much battery life and durability but at this point most people would rather the storage. It doesn’t mean a year from now when the flash prices come down, we won’t switch over to a bigger SSD. The desktop gOS PC received mixed reviews. Do you feel the CloudBook addresses any of the criticisms leveled against the desktop machine? There were some teething pains with the gOS PC, so we have asked the founder of gOS to revise the operating system this time around. One of the unique features about the CloudBook is that it will have a second version of the gOS, the V2 Rocket, which is entirely new. It is based on Ubuntu 7.1 and it does have the gOS windows manager and theming. They have built a really stable system and they put their own windows manager and theming on top of an already solid Ubuntu OS. What do you see as the primary benefits of gOS versus other flavors of Linux, such as Ubuntu or Xandros which is used in the Eee PC? I think in our minds Ubuntu was a bit on the plain side and it was still a bit Microsoft-esqe. So we have made this version a bit more unique so people don’t feel like they are getting a Windows knock-off. There are some style features that resemble the Macs OS, including a dock. When you see the OS you will really take notice of the graphical effects. Ours is definitely a step above Ubuntu and more consumer friendly. As for Xandros, I think that OS is ok. One of the things that separates the Asus unit’s operating system from ours is that we are reaching out to the community to have developers write applications and driver support and will then integrate those into the products. Our thoughts are that the Asus unit used open source to reduce the cost of goods. Any early returns on those developer efforts? We have been trying to talk to as many developers as possible. We are starting to gather certain applications and input from the developers and port them to the system already. One nice follow up to the CloudBook is that we will have a touch screen version coming out probably 45-60 days later. It is a developers unit; it’s not a mainstream product. We are releasing a couple thousand units to a developer’s crowd. So we put a touch screen on the unit and it will probably come out in Q2 or Q3. When you have this small of a form factor and you put it on touch screen, it is really awesome. Could the iPhone SDK help out with the development of touch applications? We are looking at a ton of different options, but lots of applications could be ported over to different devices. Do you consider the CloudBook to be a primary or secondary PC? It is a bit mixed. It is definitely a mobile device. It’s squarely targeted at mobile users but also can appeal to the youth market. We get those comments, for that price of $400 I could get an entry level 15-inch laptop; this device isn’t going to be all things to all people. It’s super small and it has a great battery life and it can do a lot of the basic functionality that you need from a computer. But can it rip DVDs? No, it’s not for those people. What’s next for the CloudBook line? Bigger screen sizes? What about a Wi-Max version? We have a full line of platforms starting with the 7-inch going all the way up. Right now, we are even considering a 22-inch screen model. There are definitely some talks about mobile broadband and it is definitely under consideration. On the Everex site the CloudBook is promoted as being ‘green’ but that term has been a bit overused and is often vague. What does green mean in this case? In the case of the CloudBook, we do use a 1.2 GHz VIA C7-M ultra-low voltage (ULV) [CPU]. It’s the first ULV processor we have put out to the mainstream market. On a standard four-cell lithium ion battery, we are getting 5 hours of battery life when it’s running Wi-Fi. All of our units are also ROHS compliant. It’s not Energy Star certified actually. It could be but we would have to pay a decent amount more for the AC adapter. We didn’t think it was worth pushing up the price by $20 to $30 for the consumer. What can we expect to see in the next from quarters from the CloudBook line? This is the first device, but its going to continue to evolve. Whether it’s adding different screen sizes or increasing battery life. The focus groups actually told us they were biased towards the female colors. A lot of people were saying “can you get away from the black and the silver?” For our products to cross over to the consumer friendly space they have to be a bit more attractive looking. I think we will have some nice colors coming out by the end of the year.