Asus to bring Windows, better hardware to Eee PC

The folks at Asus have quite a hit on their hands with the Eee PC, as we noted in our review of the inexpensive mini-notebook. Asus seems to believe it's on to something big, because the firm is planning to offer more options and improved Eee PC hardware in the coming year.

Today's biggest news on that front is Asus' announcement that it will offer variants of the current Eee PC 4G and 8G models in North America with Windows XP pre-installed. The firm says this move comes in response to demand from customers "whose existing software and applications require a Windows-based device." The big question, of course, is how much the addition of Windows XP will inflate the Eee PC's diminutive price. Unfortunately, Asus says pricing info isn't yet available—only that the systems will be available through resellers by the end of this quarter.

Expanding the OS options is only the tip of the iceberg for Asus, though. At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Asus confirmed to us that it plans a range of Eee PC models with better hardware. Those models will include larger screens measuring 8" and 8.9" corner to corner. The firm is also working on better batteries for the devices in order to improve battery life, and it held a press event at CES to announce its support for the Wi-Max wireless networking standard. Asus plans to roll out Wi-Max-equipped Eee PCs "as soon as Intel is ready" to supply the parts.

One place where the Eee PC's hardware may not improve dramatically is the CPU. Asus said it may stick with the Celeron processors it currently uses.

Even with all of the improvements, the basic Eee PC formula should remain intact. The company says it's trying to keep prices for the improved Eee PC models under $500.

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