ASUS thinks outside the 4″ x 4″ box with plans for custom NUCs

Commercial customers are in the frame, and gamers aren't forgotten, as it takes on Intel's mini PCs

Fresh from winning the rights to build machines based on Intel's quirky little Next Unit of Compute (NUC) mini-PC spec, ASUS has cooked up plans to offer custom NUCs to industrial clients, or even for edge deployments by cloud service providers.

The Register today spoke with ASUS senior vice president Jackie Hsu, who also serves as co-head of the PC maker's Open Platform Business and AIoT business groups.

Hsu told us that ASUS intends to continue Intel's strategy of selling NUCs to consumers, commercial customers, and for industrial or embedded applications.

The latter buyers can expect ASUS to offer custom machines that add different I/O options as demanded. ASUS already makes its own mini-PCs, and edge computers, so has the experience to build varied devices. Hsu explainedthat the NUC IP ASUS has licensed – especially the small form factor motherboard – gives it a building block on which to build custom machines.

He added that industrial buyers may need devices in form factors other than the NUC's distinctive 4″ by 4″ rectangular cuboids, but that ASUS would use the small form factor board as the basis for custom designs and add I/O modules as required to fill differently sized chassis.

Commercial customers will also be targeted with varied devices. Hsu outlined a scenario in which a retailer could acquire different NUCs for self-service kiosks, point of sale machines, driving digital signage, and warehouse operations. Each machine could be designed to handle the different physical environments it inhabits, but ASUS would be the buyer's single point of contact. The Taiwanese firm also offers PC lifecycle management software.

ASUS is also considering how NUCs fit into the plans of cloud service providers – especially on the edge, where Hsu said that hyperscalers' AI services need processing power and ASUS thinks NUCs fit in nicely. ASUS already makes edge devices that use Google's Coral tensor processing unit, so has the experience.

One of ASUS's consumer brands is the Republic of Gamers (ROG), which offers blinged-up and speedy PCs for the twitchy-thumbed crowd. KW Chao, general manager of ASUS's new NUC business unit, said ROG-branded NUCs are therefore under definite-maybe consideration. More definitively on ASUS's agenda are ongoing revisions to consumer-grade NUCs. Naturally its own ASUS branded mini PCs will also persist.

Chao also said work has already commenced on ASUS's first NUC designs, and that there’s a chance some may debut later this year. Q1 2024 is a safer bet for shoppers. ®

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