MSI Wind Revealed: 10-Inch Mini-Notebook to Hit U.S. in June

The mini-notebook market has no shortage of compelling systems, especially with this week's release of the Eee PC 900 here in the U.S. And with models from both Acer and Dell on the way, how can a lesser-known brand stand out in the crowd? Update: Read our full review of the MSI Wind. MSI’s Director of US Sales Andy Tung certainly thinks his company's entry will shake things up. In our 40-minute interview, Tung shared that the Wind will:

  • Come in two display-size variations: an 8.9-inch and a 10-inch. Only the 10-inch display will be available to the U.S. market.
  • Be available starting June 3rd. The Linux version, running Novel’s SUSE, will have 512MB RAM and an 80GB hard drive. It will retail for $399. The Windows XP version will have 1GB RAM, an 80GB hard drive, and Bluetooth, retailing for $549. However according to MSI a base configuration of the Windows XP product will be available for under $500.
  • Come in four different colors, including black, white, silver, and pink. Both sizes will be available in these colors.
  • Get 6 hours of battery life with the standard six-cell battery. Tung attributes the power savings to the Intel Atom processor, since the system will not have a solid state drive.

Tung left few details out in our chat about the Wind. Check out the full interview and giant image gallery below and stay tuned for our full review of the MSI Wind. The full specs of the systems can be found here. Q: Where will the Wind fit into the MSI product line? A: Starting last year with the ASUS Eee PC, we have seen that there is a good market for ultra-Internet devices. The success of the ASUS Eee PC wasn’t because of the functionality of the product; it was about the need people have for those systems. Today, when you go to a Starbucks you want to access the Internet and the news. The smart phone isn’t always as user friendly. From MSI’s point of view, these ultra-Internet or ultra-mobile devices will be very successful. We are a young company; we are in our fifth year of being in the notebook business. We have a wide product line from 12- to 17-inch systems. With the Wind, we will expand our product line to 8.9- and 10-inch systems. Q: What is the target audience for the Wind? A: This kind of device is definitely not your first car. For a family the first car could be a sedan or a van, but the second car could be sexier like a coupe or a convertible. We position this kind of product as a second or third car. And even for students, they might have a more powerful 17-inch in the dormitory but they won’t carry that to class. By adding this kind of device they have the freedom to bring it easily to a classroom or wherever they want to go. And they don’t even have to drag the AC adapter since the battery will last up to 6 hours. Q: How are you able to achieve such long battery life? Is that tested? A: Yes, it has been tested at 6 hours. The standard six-cell will be able to support up to 6 hours on a Windows XP system. We will have an additional three-cell as well. On a Linux-based system it can be even longer. We also kick in our Turbo Battery Life technology. The CPU runs 1.6 [GHz] on the spec, but when you are just accessing the Internet or when you are just typing notes you don’t need the CPU at 1.6 [GHz], it can run at a lower speed. So you can go into this mode and it will improve battery and lower the CPU performance by a bit. Q: What operating systems will the Wind come to market with? A: The system will come to market with a Linux and Microsoft XP operating system. We are working with Intel and Microsoft to do the validation of this device right now. It will not run Vista. Q: What flavor of Linux will it run? A: Everyone has a concern about Linux. In the past, Linux offered no support and no guarantees to the end user. Our Linux will be based on Novel’s SUSE Enterprise Version. The reason we have chosen this flavor is that it looks very similar to a Windows interface so people won’t feel that it looks strange. Secondly, Novel is a big company and they have lots of tech support and driver support. For the user we had to find something that is easy to operate and that has support. Some companies have created their own Linux versions but they lack in driver support and the support people need. We do build some unique features on the SUSE OS. Q: Do you expect the Linux version to do well compared to the Windows XP model? A: From the end-user point of view, they definitely want Windows. But Windows normally equals more dollar signs. If the customer is willing to only pay $400, they will have to go with Linux, but if they are willing to pay a bit more, they will want Windows. We definitely have confidence in SUSE, but we will try and bring the Windows price down by working on the licenses with Microsoft. I think there will be split between users: half will go Windows; the other half, Linux. Q: What will the initial prices of the systems be in the U.S.? A: We will have two versions: one with a 8.9-inch display and the other a 10-inch. We are not the first one to come out with this device, so everything similar in the market we are trying to avoid. Users can see the 8.9-inch is common, so we have a different strategy in the U.S. to only go with the 10-inch. In other regions we will offer the 8.9[-inch]. We will launch the product at Computex on June 3. The 10-inch Linux version will be $399. The 10-inch Windows version will be $549. Q: What processor will the system employ? A: With some machines, it takes more than 1 and half minutes to boot. Our system will boot in less than 30 seconds. This is because of Intel’s Atom solution. MSI will be the first one to use the Atom solution with a 10-inch screen. VIA’s C7 has been a really popular chipset and it was the first one that brought this concept to the real world, but we have chosen Atom over C7. We think it can bring the best user experience, and we see a huge advantage to multitasking with Atom. Q: Will the system have a solid state drive? A: Right now we are using regular hard drives. A few days ago, I met a lady who had one of the competition’s products and she was struggling with the limited storage space with a 4GB solid state drive. For her and, I think, a lot of customers that is a big issue. And in a lot of the testing, solid state drives don’t always outperform regular hard drives. We have decided to go with an 80GB hard drive, but customers will have the ability to upgrade the drive all the way to 320GB. Q: But wouldn't a solid state drive enabled you to offer even more battery life? Normally in this scenario there are three key factors: panel, CPU, and hard drive. The panel we use is an LCD backlight panel. Intel’s Atom only uses up to 2 watts with 1.6[-GHz] operating; that is a lot less than Celeron M or VIA’s C7. Yes, the hard drive does use more than solid state drive, however, the hard drive isn’t always in transfer mode. If we did switch to a solid state we could get 7 hours of battery life. However, customers would suffer in storage space. Q: Any plans for adding integrated mobile broadband to the Wind? A: We haven’t put that technology into the device yet, but it’s on the roadmap. We are looking at WiMAX. Q: What colors will the system come in? A: Right now we are offering black, pearl white, pink, and silver. We will have a limited baby blue. The original four colors will be available in the U.S. at time of purchase on all the SKUs. We might reduce the supply chain after we can gauge the popularity of certain colors. Q: How will end users be able to order the different configurations of the Wind? A: At the beginning customers will be able to order in four different colors, but with two different specs. The Linux-based system will have an 80GB hard drive, 512 MB of RAM and 802.11a/b/g. You can upgrade the memory in this system; there will be an extra slot. The other will be Windows XP with 80GB, 1GB of RAM, and 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth. We are talking to a bunch of channels, such as Best Buy, Amazon, and Costco. There is a lot of interest in this device so we plan to have more news on this. Q: Do you anticipate that the Wind will be a big success? A: Everybody is talking about how strong ultraportable devices will be. We think the Wind will be a big success for MSI. We also have a strong commitment from Intel and I really think the product will sell just as much as I expect it. I think the demand for this product will really spur on the sales. The technology will be solid, but the demand will be the force. More MSI Wind Coverage:

Complete MSI Wind Guide