9 Dec 2008
Powerful Performers(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 04,2008)
The R&D experts at Bestlink Electronics Ltd's factory in Shenzhen have come up with the answer to every parent's prayer when it comes to computers for kids.
They have developed a mini-laptop specially designed for young students and kids, according to Sales Manager Kent Wong. "The team mostly comprises degree-holders with all-round expertise in IT solutions," he explains. "They miniaturised everything about the pilot model Alpha 400 that has just gone on sale in the US."
The laptop measures just 212x142x33mm, weighs 0.7kg and comes in a virtual rainbow of fancy colours, from fire engine red to pink, purple, pure white or plain black.
The keyboard is ideal for little fingers at about two-thirds the usual size, and everything inside and outside has been similarly simplified and downsized.
Mr Wong believes the Alpha 400's retail price could be the clincher - around US$130. "The Alpha 400 is perfect for switched-on youngsters who have quick fingers, quicker minds and the ability to care for and respect a very special learning device that opens up a whole new world for them," he maintains.
"We believe that smart parents with 'brainy' kids won't have much trouble convincing them that it's not just another gadget to be flung into the toybox, but something to be treasured."
He rates it as easily the company's most attractive product in 16 years in the electronics industry, and is convinced that in normal times it would be a runaway best seller.
"Not surprisingly, we're getting a blizzard of enquiries from outlets all over the US that can see its huge potential, but because of the uncertain economic situation the orders are coming in slowly," Mr Wong concedes.
Once the Alpha 400 was fine-tuned and perfected in the second half of this year, Bestlink looked at further development stages in its innovative mini-laptop programme and moved on to two more sophisticated models designed not just for children but also for adults.
The UMPC 450J and 450R are due to make their debut "anytime now", says Mr Wong, who notes a couple of key differences between the adults' and kids' laptops.
"The Alpha 400 uses a Linux 4.2.4 operating system that does not involve paying a licensing fee, while the 450J and the 450R operate on Windows CE and Windows XP systems that cost US$18 and US$35 per machine respectively, thus providing Microsoft software at a slightly higher price," he explains.
Both new models are the same size as the Alpha 400, and will appeal to businessmen and women who would prefer a mini- laptop they can slip into a suit pocket or handbag rather than a bulky laptop.
The three mini-computers are the logical extension of Bestlink's long-standing expertise in the development and manufacture of LEDs and MP3 and MP4 players.
"Our factory in Shenzhen, near Bao'an Airport, is geared up for mass-production of all three models, and we're on standby for orders," says Mr Wong.
"One encouraging part about the current economic problem is that when the US economy responds to the US government's US$700bn 'blood transfusion' and picks up again, purchasers will be looking for new products like ours that are genuinely useful rather than items that are eye-catching but of little practical use."
Bestlink is also hoping for a similar situation to develop in its other main market, Europe, as that economy recovers following the intervention of EU governments.
Ultimately, Mr Wong believes Hong Kong's location adjoining the Pearl River Delta/South China manufacturing belt will put local exporters on the fast track to recovery once business picks up again.
"We have an office staff of 20 in Hong Kong to handle the paperwork involving our export operations like sales, orders, deliveries, accounts and payments, plus a factory workforce of 400 over the border," Mr Wong notes.
"Our R&D and engineering teams keep a close watch on QC so that when shipments are offloaded on the US West Coast or in Europe the customer is happy with the end product."
When it comes to providing high quality, competitively priced powerful performers in tiny packages, Bestlink definitely lives up to its name.
TEXT BY GEOFFREY SOMERS