$250 Android netbook is on track for a summer release

In January, the rumor mill hinted that Android-based netbooks could appear next year. And it was wrong. ComputerWorld reports that a small Chinese company is already putting the finishing touches on such a system, which could hit the market "within three months."

The Alpha 680 from Guangzhou Skytone Transmission Technologies features a 533MHz ARM11 processor, and it apparently runs the same version of Google Android as T-Mobile's G1 handset. Except instead of a small 3.2" touch-screen display and a slide-out keyboard, the netbook has a seven-inch 800x480 LCD and a standard netbook form factor. Another, less boast-worthy difference: "up to 20%" of Android apps don't run on the laptop yet because of "compatibility issues that still need to be ironed out."

Other hardware components include 128MB of DDR2 RAM (expandable to 256MB), a 1GB solid-state drive (expandable to 4GB), Wi-Fi, optional 3G, a card reader, and a two-cell battery rated for two to four hours of longevity. ComputerWorld says current prototypes weigh in at just 1.5 lbs, and that they measure 8.5" x 6" x 1.2". Think slightly smaller and a bit lighter than an Eee PC 701.

Skytone co-founder Nixon Wu reportedly expects the system to cost $250—and potentially even less once demand and volumes ramp up. The firm is "aiming to have final prototypes ready by June, with manufacturers likely to introduce models to the market one to two months after that." Judging by a video of the Alpha 680 in action, though, Skytone still has some work to do to make this netbook work smoothly.

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