Asus May Launch Sub-$200 Netbook

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Faced with tough competition from tablets, Asus may strike back with a dirt-cheap netbook.

Digitimes’ unnamed sources say Asus is planning an Eee PC netbook for less than $199 (not pictured), but it’s not clear what the company would sacrifice to get the price that low.

Typical Windows 7 netbooks sell for about $300 or $350, and include 10-inch screens, low-powered Intel Atom processors, 1 GB of RAM and 250 GB hard drives. Asus might be able to reduce the cost by using older processors, smaller screens and an alternative operating system, such as Android or Ubuntu.

In addition to the cheap netbook, Asus is reportedly planning a “killer” netbook, says Digitimes, but again, it’s not clear what that means. You can already get high-powered netbooks, such as Dell’s Alienware M11x¬†or Asus’ own Eee PC 1015PN, which uses Nvidia’s ION platform for graphics.

Still, it’s clear that Asus needs to do something to shake up the netbook business. Digitimes sources say the company only shipped 350,000 Eee PCs in April, and Microsoft’s latest quarterly filing says netbook sales were down 40 percent in the consumer market.¬†Tablets, such as Apple’s iPad, may be partly to blame, but cheap, thin and light laptops may also be stealing netbooks’ thunder. That may explain why Asus’ laptop business continues to grow as netbook sales tank.

Asus does make a couple tablet of its own, the Eee Slate and the Eee Pad Transformer, but the former is an expensive Windows-based device, and the latter is being held back by supply shortages.