VIA wants to become the Apple of the low-end PC and information appliance markets, if its new-found interest in providing powerful-yet-stylish reference platforms is anything to go by.
Speaking in London aprés-CeBit, VIA's director of international marketing, Richard Brown, told The Register the industry "needs to look beyond the beige box" especially at the value PC end of the business.
VIA's solution to the problem is an increased emphasis on industrial design, he said. That means good looking, compact boxes like the portable - well, it's got a handle - desktop system design the company showed off at CeBit along with a highly compact new mobo form factor, both part of the Taiwanese company's InfoPC reference design.
That, of course, is exactly what Apple's been doing over the last three years or so, with some success. The iMac certainly changed the way consumers think how a PC should look. The Titanium PowerBook G4 is doing rather well in retail (see Apple reverses notebook market sales dip), and even though the Cube hasn't sold too well, almost everyone likes its looks.
Of course, other PC companies have tried to emulate Apple and almost all have failed. "All they did was put a bit of translucent plastic on a standard case - that's not industrial design," said Brown.
VIA, he reckons, can do a better job than that, he said, and will be working with a small number of select partners to pave the way for shipping product in the summer.
The reference design supports VIA's x86-compatible C3 CPU, aka Cyrix III, aka Samuel II, which the company plans to promote as a low-end alternative to AMD's Duron and Intel's Celeron.
The C3 name was coined - "two hours before the chip's launch at CeBit", according to Brown - to stress that the chip is a VIA product and to help everyone forget the Cyrix chips were bought-in parts. Brown said that the plan isn't to push the chip as a product in its own right, as Intel and AMD do. But the fact the company feels the need to give it a new name suggests that's probably what will happen, albeit in a rather less flashy way than Chipzilla's capacious marketing purse would allow. So too does VIA's need to be seen as something more than a chipset company. ®