Toshiba plans EEE PC rival but warns the ULPC is not sustainable

By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: Toshiba has been keenly watching the development of the ULPC (ultra low-cost PC) market in Australia recently, following the success of the Asus Eee PC, and is considering making a strategic move into the category.

At its new notebook range launch on Wednesday, Toshiba Australia’s Whittard, general manager Information Systems Division shared some of his views on the ULPC (ultra low-cost PC) market recently popularised by the Asus Eee PC, which itself has spawned ULPC completion from HP with its 2133 Mini-Note, and also from the new brand in the Australian market, Vivo, which is currently selling two ULPCs through resellers.

While Toshiba has a very small and light Portege R500 SSD, that weighs 887 grams, has a small 12.1 inch screen and also has inbuilt 3G HSDPA, it is not technically categorised in the ULPC market. However, Whittard showed some small ULPC prototypes at the media launch and said that Toshiba was watching the category closely looking to see if there were opportunities to realise a sufficient return on investment.

“It woke up the market and attracted new buyers,” said Whittard in reference to the Asus Eee PC. “But it just shifted prices of vendor’s 15 inch PCs down, and now you can get them as cheap as $549 with a cashback, but do you want an Eee PC or a fully functional product … Eee PC sales have dropped.”

However, Whittard said Toshiba is in talks with retailers and resellers to see what sort of products would be in demand by consumers, and that Toshiba would release a ULPC product, but wasn’t expecting it to add significantly to the company’s bottom line.

“We will have a ULPC very soon but we’re not looking at the market to make any money, it’s to make a statement,” he said.

Whittard warned that a focus on low cost is not sustainable:

“Price is not a competitive advantage … people can always match it or beat it.”

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