Shuttle spells out its notebook plans - Mike Magee pic

Taiwanese vendor Shuttle is best known for the dinky little XPCs that stormed the marketplace in the early 2000s. But circumstances have changed and it now has an additional business direction up its sleeve.

That's to become an original design manufacturer (ODM) of notebooks, but it's an ODM with a difference the company explained when we visited its offices today. An independent source said Shuttle poached the entire ODM notebook team from ECS last year.

Shuttle announced its plans to become an ODM at CeBIT and at CES earlier this year. Steve Wang, manager of the R&D division, explained its strategy.

The vast majority of notebooks branded with familiar multinational names such as Dell, HP and the like, are built by ODMs in Taiwan such as Compal, Wistron and Quanta.  Shuttle is not going to compete with those companies, said Wang.

However, while those ODMs can satisfy the needs of the HPs of those world, smaller manufacturers can't enter the game because of the high cost based on large volumes - not just for specifications but for lead times, supply priorities and the high cost of customising such machines.

That's why Shuttle believes it can make money out of this ODM business. It is aiming at smaller OEMs who would get placed last in the line if they went to the big boys. The Wistrons and Quantas of this world have factories geared to high volume production and there are few, if any standards in notebooks.

Shuttle, which we understand has several design wins, has a web site for the smaller OEMs that allows them to create a notebook to their own spec, selecting a number of options including CPU, platform, keyboard, screen size and customisation, said Wang.

It will offer around 200 product combinations in 2010, including CPUs from Intel, AMD, and Via, screen sizes from 10.2-inches to 17-inches, and other components including keyboards and the like.

Finally, Shuttle isn't ducking out of the XPC business and has a one litre machine called the XS35, kitted out with Intel's Pine Trail and Nvidia Ion, a fanless machine, which will go into production in June, just in time for Computex.

Shuttle will also produce an All-in-One PC, designed specifically for vertical markets, and bypassing consumers completely.