TechRadar caught up with Jerry Shen, Asus' new CEO recently - shortly after what was universally agreed to have been a pretty successful press conference for the Taiwanese computing company at CeBit 2009.
In an open and revealing chat, Shen told us more about his plans for future of the Eee PC and we find out a lot more about the new devices Asus was showing off in Hanover such as two intriguing new concept PCs, the Wii-like 'Eee Stick' and the AiGuru SV1 standalone Skype videophone.
Read on to find out all you need to know about voice-controlled Eee PCs, market-disrupting laptop designs and all the other exciting stuff in store from Asus later in 2009 and beyond.
TechRadar: Asus' successful sub-brand Eee PC seems to be expanding fairly rapidly. Was this always the plan with the Eee PC brand? It started out as a low-cost netbook, but now there is an entire range of different devices.
Jerry Shen: Actually when we developed the original Eee PC the major focus was on the triple E, or what we refer to as 'easy, excellent and exciting' – and the hidden 'e' factor is also 'economical'.
But the major three are easy to learn, work and play; excellent mobile internet experience and also exciting – which means that we always try to do something beyond the user's expectations. We try to implement these in all Eee PC products, so for example, if you look at the latest Eee PC 'Seashell' - the Eee PC 1008 – low cost is the result, but our major focus is on these three Es. Easy, excellent and exciting.
TR: And now you are releasing new products under this brand such as the Eee Keyboard and the Eee Stick – which we have just tried out and it is basically like a much more responsive version of the Nintendo Wii. But is there perhaps a problem here, in that most people don't currently have PCs in their living room?
JS: Well, what we found in our planning, is that we have two devices, the Eee Box and the Eee Keyboard, that are very possible to put in the living room. The Eee Box can be placed near to the TV and it can be connected via HDMI and it becomes what we call 'Eee TV', with which you can then use the Eee Sticks to play.
One of the final production versions of the Eee Keyboard will be wireless (using an ultra wide band receiver), so you can plug a dongle into the HDMI on the TV and then you can use the keyboard wirelessly to play movies, access the internet and to make use of the big display on your TV.
The wired version uses a standard HDMI cable, so will be full high definition. And in the future the wireless Eee Keyboard will make use of new 30GHz Miniwave technology that will also be able to offer full HD output wirelessly, similar to the wired version.
TR: In effect, you are asking consumers to change the whole idea of how they use PCs, particularly in relation to the idea of sitting on the sofa in the living room while using your TV as you would use your PC monitor. Could you tell us a little more about the new concept PCs Asus had on show at CeBit this year – the Fold/Unfold laptop and the dual touchscreen eBook laptop concept, for example.
JS: The dual touchscreen PC is still at concept stage, but for the Fold/Unfold laptop concept, we plan to try to implement that in the second half of 2009, so we will see mass production of that later this year. We were thinking of the category of the MacBook Air and we think that the Asus Fold/Unfold can create another category. Image-wise and everything, it is a PC in many ways like the MacBook Air – we seek to have a similar impact on the market.
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