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Micro Express, a system supplier from California, said in a statement that it had begun selling the world’s first laptop that had been verified by Intel for interchangeability of key components as part of the chip giant’s interchangeability initiative recently introduced. The notebooks are made by Compal and it is expected that they will be more repair and upgrade-friendly compared to today’s mobile computers.

“With interchangeable parts, repair or upgrading becomes far less expensive. With Viiv technology you can experience breathtaking high-definition video and up to 7.1 surround sound with easy access to your entire library of digital photos and PC games,” said Art Afshar, president of Micro Express.

The HEL8016 notebook built for Micro Express by Compal features interchangeable parts, such as the keyboard, battery, LCD screen, disk drive, AC power adapter and optical drive. Moreover, the top cover of this notebook can be customized by applying a customizable notebook panel. In addition, the newcomer is drop-in compatible with Intel Core 2 Duo processors for mobile computers (Merom) and can also carry Intel Centrino Duo and Intel Viiv platform trademarks.

Micro Express’ HEL8016 laptop comes with 15.4” wide-screen display (1280x800), is based on Intel 945PM and ICH7-M chipset, is equipped with 512MB PC2-5300 (667MHz), CD/DVD recorder, 60GB  2.5” hard disk drive, Nvidia GeForce 7600 graphics card with 256MB memory and so on. The default configuration costs $1199. The computer may be equipped with TV tuner, car adapter, Bluetooth module and some other accessories.

Intel has identified seven component categories for notebooks – hard disk drive, optical drive, LCD panel, battery pack, customizable notebook panel, power adapters and keyboards – that can be built on common building blocks. The company announced the initiative during Intel Solutions Summit earlier this month and said that large notebook manufacturers Asustek Computer, Compal and Quanta were interested in being parts of such an initiative, according to an earlier report.

While potentially Intel’s idea is an interesting one, it will work only for very mainstream notebooks, and even for them, interchangeable components will have to be available in plethora of form-factors and with plethora of extra features. For example, Lenovo ThinkPad notebooks feature keyboard that it totally different from the others in terms of tactile feelings and do not have “Windows” keys, whereas Sony’s laptops feature displays that are much better compared to others on the market. Neither of those companies would like to unify their products, as ThinkPad business customers pay for rugged quality keyboard, while those who buy Vaio are more interested in multimedia functionality. 


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