By Philipp Gollner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Bck in 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the Apple I, an early personal computer that consisted of a circuit board in a simple wooden box.
Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and other computer makers went on to make advanced PCs in metal and plastic casings, but now Taiwan's Asustek Computer Inc (2357.TW: Quote, Profile, Research) is finding potential beauty -- and sales -- in an eco-friendly notebook PC encased in another natural material: bamboo.
The Asus Eco Book, as it's dubbed, has a case made of laminated bamboo strips available in different shades.
Harvesting bamboo, an abundant, flexible, durable and fast-growing grass, is unlikely to harm the environment as processing wood from trees might, Asustek said, although glues and laminates for shaping and fortifying the material sometimes contain toxins.
The product is still in the prototype stage and engineers are checking to see if bamboo is suitable for laptops, which have to endure extreme conditions while allowing heat from microprocessors and monitors to escape.
The Eco book is a new tack for a company that caters to executives and other high-end users with its calf leather-bound notebooks and faux alligator-skin models.
"Originally we came out with a leather model style-book," said Cher Chronis, director of marketing communication for Asus Computer International, the Taipei-based company's U.S. unit.
"It was very popular," she said. "After that, it was kind of natural for us to experiment with other types of materials, so we decided to go green."
Asustek says its leather notebooks have not been criticized by animal-rights activists and that the Eco book is not meant to assuage critics.
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