Asustek Computer, a leading Taiwanese computer maker, will launch its much awaited low-price computer next month, becoming one of the first companies marketing an ultra-mobile laptop for the developing world.

Developed with Intel Corp., the Asustek laptop with a seven-inch screen will also come in a more sophisticated version that will target the developed world, said company Chairman Jonney Shih.

"It will be a laptop that's easy to learn, easy to play and easy to work with… one targeting both the emerging and mature markets," Shih said in an interview.

More than 500 engineers, mostly from Asustek's bases in Taiwan and China, were involved in the development of the low-price laptop, Shih said.

A simple model of the product will be priced at $199 US at the retail level, while one with more features will sell for between $245 US and $299 US, he said.

The laptop, which will run the Linux operating system, will carry the company's ASUS brand.

Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman, said the project is part of the company's "World Ahead" program —which involves investing $1 billion US over five years to deliver low-cost computers around the world.

Asustek said early this year the company hoped to produce half a million of the low-price laptops in 2007.

Officials later said the volume could be sharply cut because of the late launch and the shortage of a few key components.

Asustek is the world's largest maker of computer motherboards. Of the 138 million desktop personal computers sold worldwide last year, 56 million units, or about 40 per cent, were built on ASUS brand motherboards.

A latecomer in making laptops, Asustek is now among the world's top 10 laptop makers.

It's also not the only organization to target their laptop computers to the developing world.

Massachusetts-based non-profit group One Laptop Per Child said in July it has received three million orders and will begin mass production of its XO laptop.

The XO, which will cost about $175 US, is meant to give children in poorer countries a chance to use the internet and computing technology. It was designed to be cheap to make, energy efficient and appropriate for tough conditions.