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Report: Sony to make low-cost mininotebook

At WiMax Expo, Sony is spotted as the manufacturer of a low-cost prototype using a Via processor and chipset.

Sony is prepping a notebook based on Via's OpenBook reference design, PC World is reporting.

At the WiMax Expo taking place in Taipei, contract manufacturer Quanta Computer showed a mini-laptop based on Via's just-released design that will be out in the third quarter of this year. A sharp-eyed reporter spotted Sony as the listed manufacturer for the device. When questioned, Quanta representatives apparently clammed up, and it doesn't appear Sony will be commenting either.

The mini notebook has an 8.9-inch screen, at least an 80GB hard drive, will use a 1.6-Gigahertz C7-M processor from Via, and sports a VX800 chipset. The prototype on display was running Windows Vista Home Basic.

So has the Vaio maker finally caved? In February, a Sony exec said if the Eee PC started to do well, and major PC makers started to chase the low-cost laptop market, it was the beginning of "a race to the bottom."

Too late. Hewlett-Packard, Acer, and maybe even Dell, are joining the low-cost, lightweight computing fray. And those are just the big names. Asus continues to crank out Eee PCs, and similar devices from no-names like MSI are widely anticipated.

Sony likes to position itself and its products on the high-end. But it started producing a line of its Vaio notebooks last year that sold for as low as $800. At the time, the company said it wasn't interested in going any lower.

Things, of course, can change. And though low-cost laptops are still a tiny niche of the market, it is another way for manufacturers to differentiate their product lines as notebook prices and profit margins continue their inevitable decline.