Just when you thought everyone had unveiled an Eee PC clone, Via comes along to crash the party with its OpenBook concept. Rather than selling a machine directly, Via is offering a customisable platform upon which third party manufacturers can base their own machines. The plus side of this should be reduced costs, as there is little to no development cost for producing such a device, the downside being a distinct lack of any Atom-based systems.
Internal specs aren't especially inspiring, comprising as they do a Via C7-M processor and VX800 digital media chipset. As we saw with the HP Mini-Note, such a processor struggles even with Linux, so even though Via says that XP and Vista can be installed on OpenBook systems, it's unlikely it would run well. Via's next-generation processor, codenamed Isaiah will apparently be available as well, though, and with a claimed four times performance improvement over its predecessor it could well pose a decent alternative to Atom.
In other areas the OpenBook does match the Eee PC and its ilk more favourably. It features an 8.9in, 1024 x 600 resolution LED-backlit screen (just like the larger Eee) which isn't too shabby, and trumps the competition on connectivity, boasting WiFi, HSDPA and WiMAX. Bluetooth and aGPS are also listed as options making the OpenBook the "most connected" sub-notebook around.
Manufacturers aren't limited to simply re-badging the same chassis as their contemporaries either, as Via is supplying CAD files (read: easy to adapt designs) which should enable easy modification of the basic framework. No information is yet available as to whether any company is taking up the OpenBook for itself, but if the price is right, doubtless some smaller parties hoping to capitalise on the Eee PC phenomena will jump on board soon.