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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sylvania Reveals Mini-Notebook Plans



by Joanna Stern

Over the past few days, we’ve heard a bit about Sylvania’s entrance into the mini-notebook market. The company first rebranded VIA’s nanobook (a.k.a. the CloudBook) and renamed it the Sylvania g Netbook. But Sylvania is entrenching itself more seriously in the mini-notebook space by putting out an 8.9-inch mini-notebook in the next few weeks and then a 10-inch.

But before we got the low down on the new Sylvania mini-notebooks we just had to find out what the heck Sylvania, the lighting and electric company, was doing in the computing space. I mean, we cannot forget that Sylvania was founded in 1901 to repair light bulbs and soon after began making lighting products.

When we reached out to Sylvania we learned quickly that they aren’t exactly behind the netbooks. A company cleverly named Digital Gadgets is an OEM of consumer electronic products and accessories and has licensed the Sylvania brand for its netbooks.

“Sylvania is a living brand. We aren’t just a heritage brand. We continue to be a dynamic living brand and these new netbooks allow us to connect with new generation of consumers,” Sylvania’s Chief Corporate Spokesman Stephanie J. Anderson told us.

Digital Gadget Managing Partner Paul Goldenberg, however had a lot to share about the new Sylvania netbooks. He told us that the netbooks will:

* Come in two display-size variations: an 8.9-inch and a 10-inch. The 8.9-inch will be called the g netbook MESO and the 10-inch will be named the g netbook MAGNI.
* The 8.9-inch will be available in early August. It will be available with 512MB or 1GB of RAM, and the Atom processor. It will be the first notebook to ship with Ubuntu Netbook Remix preloaded. It will also be available with Windows XP. Pricing will start at $399.
* The 10-inch will be available at the end of August or beginning of September. It will run Intel Atom chipset, be available with 1GB of RAM and 120GB hard drive. Similarly it will run the Ubuntu Netbook remix and Windows XP.

Check out the full interview with Paul Goldenberg and image gallery below of the systems and stay tuned for our full review of the MESO and MAGNI, which we expect to receive in the next few weeks.

LAPTOP: What is Digital Gadgets and why are you entering the mini-notebook market?
Paul Goldenberg: Digital Gadgets is a company I founded in 2007. We are a manufacturer of consumer electronics products and accessories. In this case, we are a licensee of the name Sylvania for our products. You will see the name Sylvania and their logo on all of our products, including netbooks, headphones, etc. We look at netbooks as the next generation of gadgets. People primarily use their laptops for e-mail and to access the Internet. This new form factor gives you that ability to access both from anywhere.

LAPTOP: The 8.9-inch mini-notebook looks a lot like the Amtek Elego we saw at Computex. Can you confirm?
PG: Yes it is in fact the Amtek Elego. But it is part of an Intel project; Intel was looking for OEMs to brand this notebook in markets around the world. We are the exclusive in the U.S. with this hardware. It is similar to their Classmate project and this is a similar machine, but in a bit sexier package and is less geared towards students.

LAPTOP: When will it be available and for what price?
PG: The netbook g MESO will be available in early August and will have an MSRP of $399. It will be offered with a 512 MB or 1GB RAM option. It will have an 80GB hard drive. The 512 MB RAM option will be available in only a black chassis. But the 1GB option will be available in snow, solar and blossom [white, yellow and pink]. It will be released with Ubuntu Netbook remix first and then will be available in September with XP. The 512MB will probably be preloaded with Ubuntu; the 1GB will have both. We haven’t finalized the price on the XP system but we are expecting it to be priced at $499.

LAPTOP: Are you guys considering SSD options? Or mobile broadband?
PG: Absolutely we are looking into SSDs. In fact I plan to bring them into market in 2009. We are also considering a 120GB hard drive option for some retailers. In addition, we are still talking to a few manufactures of broadband but we see that being the future. We see it going in the direction of the mobile phone business.

LAPTOP: Are you guys predicting any hold ups because of the rumored Atom delay?
PG: We not only have started taking orders, we are shipping units. Intel is doing a good job of taking care of the customers. It doesn’t look as grim as everyone is making it out to be.

LAPTOP: What can you tell us about the 10-inch version?
PG: We will be releasing the 10-inch g netbook in late August or early September. We will release it after the MESO. It will be called the g netbook MAGNI. It will sport a 120GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM and will be available with the Ubuntu netbook remix and Windows XP. It will also run the Intel Atom processor. We will be releasing the Linux version first and then Windows XP in September. It will be available in black and white colors.

LAPTOP: Do you anticipate that the you will be able to stand out in the new, ever-growing mini-notebook market?
PG: We aren’t in the laptop business. We are only in the netbook business. That is where we think our strength lies. There is no thought of us canablaizing the other products. We don’t’ look at it as a computer frankly. It is an in-between gadget. It falls between a handheld and a laptop.