Laptop Magazine scored an interview with Andy Tung, the head of sales for MSI in the US. And he had a lot to say about the current state of the MSI Wind laptop as well as the future of the platform. Probably the most exciting news is that MSI plans to release an updated model called the MSI Wind U120 within the next few months.
The U120 will have a 10 inch screen like the current Wind U100 model. But the chassis won’t have rounded edges, it will be a bit more angular and business-like. The netbook will be about the same size as the current generation, or possibly a hair larger.
At launch the Wind U120 will only be available with a hard drive option, but eventually MSI will offer an SSD option. It’s not clear what the storage capacity will be, but Tung seemed to hint that it could be somewhere between 20GB and 40GB.
The other thing that will set the Wind U120 apart from the Wind U100 is support for 3.5G wireless networking. Tung says the company is currently talking to US mobile providers. No final decision has been made on pricing yet, but the netbook will likely sell for $600 or less.
In other news, Tung confirms that MSI is adding features to the current generation of MSI WInd U100 models while cutting the price. For $480, you’ll soon be able to pick up an MSI netbook with a 6 cell battery, 160GB hard drive, and 802.11b/g/n wireless connectivity. Originally the MSI Wind U100 had a 3 cell battery, 80GB hard drive, and 802.11b and g, but no n. The company is also working with a national retailer so that the 3-cell version of the Wind will be available in bricks and mortar stores for $399 next week.
One final bit of news from the interview: MSI is selling between 150,000 and 250,000 Wind laptops per month. And the versions running Linux are returned 4 times as often as the models running Windows XP. You could use this as evidence that Linux isn’t ready for prime time and that netbooks won’t usher in widespread adoption of desktop Linux as many people had predicted. But it’s just as likely that MSI did a crappy job of loading a Linux distro onto the Wind laptops that are currently sold with Linux.
As Laptop Magazine’s Joanna Stern points out, the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop software that comes with some versions of the Wind, including the U90 with its 8.9 inch display, doesn’t seem to work very well with the hardware. The computer’s webcam isn’t supported, WiFi is hard to set up, and the power management stinks.
MSI doesn’t plan to abandon Linux yet, since the open source operating system provides a way to help keep software licensing costs down on netbooks like the Wind. But Tung says the company is looking at alternate distributions, including a custom version of Ubuntu that has a “Mac OS type of look and feel.”
“…the next few months….” sounds like a long time to wait.
When netbooks arrive in the US with 3 or 3.5G “built in,” I hope we will be able to buy the netbook of our choice and then subscribe to the service of our choice, as I understand one can at least sometimes do in Europe, rather than be forced to accept whatever netbook the provider is subsidizing and sign up for an expensive, confining 2-year contract.
Of course, we would have to switch mini-PCIe cards (assuming this is the way it’s “built in”) when changing between CDMA providers and GSM providers, but at least we would have the freedom to do that.
It’s true that we can already do it with ExpressCard adapters and USB adapters, but I’ve seen references, for example, at the Dell site, that claim that you get much more reliable connections with the adapter “built in.”
And I was told at a local Verizon store that they were phasing out ExpressCard adapters as soon as they sell all they have left. They charge $150 for an ExpressCard, and USB adapters are free with rebates. Also, long, protruding USB dongles defeat the idea of portability, and could get damaged in backpacks or have to be removed and stored separately. The ExpressCard adapters protrude quite a bit as well.
Gobi, from Qualcomm, sounds interesting: http://www.GobiAnywhere.com
Edit: The above site has a .pdf: https://www.gobianywhere.com/Qualcomm2729.pdf
which says CDMA (EV-DO Rev A) and GSM (HSPA) will be available in the same internal card in early 2009.
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