Better late than never, Lenovo has launched the IdeaPad S9 and S10 sub-notebooks, the company’s answer to the embarrassing success of the Eee PC from rival Asus.

The S9 features an 8.9 inch screen, integrated 802.11g Wi-Fi, 512MB of memory, 80GB of hard disk space or a 4GB solid state drive (SSD), and is built around Intel's 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 chip. The more expensive S10 features a 10.2 inch screen, 1GB of RAM and a larger 160GB hard disk. Users can choose from Linux or the supposedly extinct Windows XP.

According to Lenovo, the S9/S10 sub-notebook concept sits somewhere between a fully-fledged laptop and the mobile phone, and will be bought by both consumers and businesses.

"As rapidly as the technology changes, today's consumers are looking for mobile products that feature the best of basic computing functions in an extremely compact and affordable form, and Lenovo designed the IdeaPad netbooks for that purpose," said Lenovo's Liu Jun.

Other features include a webcam, and OneKey rescue, a claimed one-button system for restoring the machine after an operating system problem or malware glitch.

In contrast to the recently-launched Asus Eee PC 1000 series - based around pretty much the same hardware and software combinations - the Lenovo S9 and S10 lack the innovative quick-boot system, ExpressGate, which can put the machine in a usable state inside a claimed 10 seconds. The Eee PC also has more up-to-date 802.11n Wi-Fi.

That suggests that the competition will now be on price, and the Lenovo machines are competitive at £279 (including VAT) for the S9 and £319 for the S10, slightly below the equivalent Asus machines. US pricing will be $399 and $449 for two versions of the S10 - the S9 will not be sold in the US. This is significantly cheaper at today's pound-to-dollar exchange rates.

The new IdeaPads will be available in the UK from October.