Via Aims for the Low-Cost Notebook Market

Via is preparing to carve out a bigger share of the low-cost notebook market.

Via is ramping up it efforts to take on Intel in the emerging low-cost PC market with a new line of low-watt x86 processors that boast more features and an improved microarchitecture.

The chip maker, which is headquartered in Taiwan, will officially launch its new line of single-core Nano microprocessors May 29, which are built on an entirely new microarchitecture called "Isaiah."

The Nano processors were designed to compete with Intel and its upcoming Atom line of chips-formally "Diamondville"-in the still nascent market for low-cost PCs, or what Intel calls "netbooks."

These types of laptops and desktops are generally low-cost and geared for the consumer and the education markets as well as the emerging markets. The most successful example of these types of low-cost notebooks is the Asus Eee PC, which has garnered a good deal of attention, although Hewlett-Packard, Dell and other vendors are looking to enter the market.

In April, HP introduced a $499 notebook that uses a Via C7 processor.

For years, Via developed low-watt, low-cost x86 microprocessors for the low end of the notebook and desktop market. Now, with Intel entering this field later this year, Via is looking to capitalize on what has always been a niche part of the worldwide PC market.

"They have been in this market for more than a decade, and they have been able to carve out a niche for themselves by targeting small-form-factor PCs that required a low-power processor," said Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research, who follows the x86 processor market.

"What has now happened is that the market has come to the niche," McCarron added. "What Intel is looking to do is grow this market with its Atom processor, and as this market expands there's room for Via to grow."

In a recent report, IDC predicted that the market for low-cost PCs will grow to $3 billion by 2012, with shipments topping 9 million. Intel, which is the world's leading producer of x86 processors, sees a market that is potentially worth $10 billion.