Asus has announced it will slim down its range of Eee PC netbooks to stop confusion and lower costs.

The company, which pioneered the netbook phenomenon with the Eee PC, put out over 20 different versions of the device last year, with different names such as the Eee PC S101, Eee PC 1000H, Eee PC Surf and more.

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This year, Asus says it will be different. The company will simplify the production and marketing of the Eee PC by reducing the number of models, said CEO Jerry Shen.

Asus plans to slim down its Eee PC range

Although last year's Eee PC strategy gave users a much wider range of choices, it did not help Asus fight off competition from newcomers.

Acer, which launched a single netbook with one name, the Aspire One will likely soon announce that it shipped more netbooks than Asus did last year, even though Acer entered the netbook market much later in the year than Asustek.

Acer launched the Aspire One in the second half of last year, well behind Asus, which had Eee PCs on sale from the start of 2008.

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Yet on Thursday, Asus announced it shipped 4.9 million Eee PCs in 2008, well behind Acer's projected six million units. Acer hasn't announced a final shipment figure yet.

Acer's sales of the Aspire One soared due to its simplicity, low cost, and the company's ability to launch globally, analysts say. The company reduced market confusion through its single netbook strategy, and offered variety by letting users choose from different configurations and software.

The strategy also allowed Acer to keep design and assembly costs to a minimum, and Acer passed the savings on to users in the form of low prices.

Asus, by contrast, suffered due to its strategy of offering multiple Eee PCs. Each run of a line of Eee PCs was more expensive, on average, than Acer's runs of Aspire Ones because the Eee PC models were significantly different, costing Asus in design expenses as well as component procurement and assembly costs, analysts said.

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