When Pioneer recently announced a $799 notebook, the price breakthrough restricted features to a 14.1-inch screen, 1.3GHz Celeron processor, 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive.
The machine also eschewed the Windows operating system, shipping instead with a free version of the Linspire Linux distribution.
Is this how whitebox and whitebook vendors will increasingly compete with multinationals at the lower end of the market? Pioneer managing director, Jeff Li, thinks so.
"Most customers want entry-level notebooks for email, Internet and very simple typing," he said. "They never play games on them. Notebooks at this level are like an appliance and that's all users want to pay for."
Li said he was going to take the concept a step further after recently signing a deal with tier-two processor vendor, Via Technologies.
The inclusion of its processors in the DreamBook range would see prices fall by another $100, he said. The notebooks will be available in a month.
But Protac International boss, Gary Jeng, disagreed with Li's approach to the mobile computing market.
"Consumers will think about buying a known brand with a bigger screen for $899 and Windows XP instead," he said. "Price isn't the only consideration."
Jeng said Protac would focus on building machines with higher specifications, which might cost more but would also be cheaper to upgrade than machines from a multinational.
He said Protac had also been offered the chance to put Via chips into its notebooks but had declined.
"It's true that the brand business is aggressive and resellers are only making $20-30 on each unit, but they can also sell three to five units a day," Jeng said.
A spokesperson for Victoria-based distributor, Synnex, concurred with Jeng's assessment.
"It's not just about price and most companies prefer the Microsoft option," he said. "If it was as simple as offering Linux to cut costs, and people were actually buying it, the multinationals could offer Linux too."