Say hi to VIA’s OpenBook reference laptop

The morning after Asus announced its first Eee PC last June, VIA unleashed its own take on the low-cost sub-notebook concept: the NanoBook reference design. Today, VIA is back with a new-and-improved reference it dubs the OpenBook.

What’s new? VIA has traded the NanoBook’s awkward design with one more similar to the Eee’s. The OpenBook’s 8.9″ 1024 x 600 panel replaces the NanoBook’s off-center 7″ display, bringing with it a full keyboard and conventionally placed touchpad. Dual two-megapixel cameras sit above and behind the new screen, and two slim stereo speakers lie under it.

The OpenBook isn’t just about looks, though—far from it. VIA says the reference system includes one of its 1.6GHz C7-M ultra-low-voltage processors (no Isaiah here yet), one of its new VX800 all-in-one integrated graphics chipsets, up to 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 2.5″ 80GB hard drive, and a “flexible internal interface” with two communications modules. The first module includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, while an optional module can add WiMAX, HSDPA, or WCDMA wireless connectivity to the mix. Other perks include a card reader, VGA output, three USB ports, and stereo/mic audio ports.

Road warriors should enjoy the OpenBook’s three-hour battery and small footprint, as well. The system weighs in at just 2.2 lbs (1 kg) and measures 9.45″ x 6.89″ x 1.1-1.43″ (240 x 175 x 28-36.2 mm)—teeny, if just a touch bigger than Asus’ Eee PC 900. On the software side, VIA says you’re free to load up an OpenBook with Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows XP, and Linux distributions including Ubuntu, SuSE Linux Enterprise, and gOS.

As with the NanoBook, VIA will rely on its partners to commercialize their own flavors of the OpenBook. To encourage them, VIA intends to make CAD files of the OpenBook design publicly available on under a Creative Commons Share Alike license. In VIA’s words, the move will “give customers such as OEMs, system integrators, and broadband service providers greater freedom in tailoring the look and feel of their device to meet the diverse needs of their target markets.” Check out the image gallery below for more photos of the OpenBook reference.

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