ASUS Develops Channel-Friendly Whitebook On Intel's Next-Gen Mobile Platform

The Taiwan-based ODM which also maintains U.S. offices in Freemont, Calif., is expected to show at CES a 14.1-inch model with Intel's low-power, dual-core CPU and some extras specifically designed for the channel, according to several sources who have seen the product.

Napa is the code-name for Intel's next-generation mobile platform that is slated to deliver additional power savings while still offering increased computing might via a dual-core CPU.

ASUS' first model for the channel, the Z62F, was designed with a back-plate that can be removed so that system builders can configure whitebooks from one location, according to a source close to the company. One system builder also said the model will offer interchangeable 14- and 15-inch screens.

ASUS has told its partners that its new model is the first that was designed from the ground up specifically for the channel. Previous models were first developed for OEMs and then later released as whitebooks to the channel.

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An ASUS spokesman said the company would release specific information about the model on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., expects to highlight models from as many as 15 systems builders at the show, according to Eric Thompson, Intel's North American marketing manager for the channel. Many have added their own customization, such as special colors that won't be found from tier-one OEMS, Thompson said.

Also available for the first time will be the initial fruits of Intel's attempt to provide some interchangeable parts, or what Intel calls Common Building Blocks (CBB), for whitebooks. The models will initially support four CBBs: a common screen format for ODMs purchasing from LCD suppliers and CBB hard drives, optical drives and power supplies, said Thompson. Other more advanced options will come later.

Systems builders said CBBs should reduce inventory and improve their ability to service customers. They also said CBBs could make it easier to offer more customized options.

Intel has been working with whitebook ODMs and component suppliers to improve the quality of build-to-order notebooks as well as increase supply of components available for the channel. In a previous interview with CRN, Steve Dallman, Intel&'s senior director of channels, said Intel would work to ensure that supply of components required in the Napa platform would be available to ODMs and systems builders at launch. Previously, initial supply went to top-tier OEMs first and then was allocated to the channel months later, systems builders said.

Dallman on Tuesday told CRN via e-mail that he has personally ensured Napa component supply is available to the channel.

Intel is expected to formally unveil the Napa platform at CES later this week.