A usable laptop for US$300? 512Mb of RAM, 4Gb of storage, wireless and ethernet networking. Able to run my Windows applications. No, never. Not in my lifetime.
Oh my how technology changes.
With flash-memory falling in price by 50% every year, flash engineered to survive more reads and writes, and processors such as the Intel Atom performing well at small sizes - the price/performance/size curve has dramatically changed.
Two weeks ago, the new little ASUS EEE PC 4G with Microsoft Windows XP pre-installed made an appearance on my local online retailer's price list. Instant purchase!
At home, connected to our wireless network, this little machine is a great twitter-machine. The trackpad and keyboard are large enough - even for my adult male hands. I would not like to write a novel, for hour after hour, on the keyboard. More than sufficient for emails and 140 character twitters.
The inbuilt video camera, microphone and speakers are also handy: if you are a micro-TV producer on Yahoo! Live or similar, this little machine has it all.
Our Windows Home Server has transcoded .wmv TV. The little EEE, which I have named PRINCEEDMUND to keep in my theme of Blackadder names, plays these videos in a watchable manner.
A first installation on the little device is the Windows Home Server backup software. The restoration of the supplied Windows XP and software from ASUS relies on an external USB CD/DVD drive. I strongly suggest obtaining one of these if you plan to install/reinstall your system.
ASUS kindly supply the EEE PC with an external USB mouse and an extra 4Gb Flash storage device.
Whilst I miss Vista, the short cuts for Windows XP are embedded into my brain after 7 years of continual use. Microsoft Works, Windows Live Writer and other tools: biggest constrain is the screen size. This screen size became a hindrance when attempting to install Ubuntu onto the EEE. Not seeing the OK/Cancel buttons on the Ubuntu install dialog box is a wee fail.
Obligatory Disk space and Memory Performance screen dumps
Why should you own one?
Designed for school use, if you are not a student the question is: why? Student-hardened devices are extremely useful if you are a little of a clutz: the plastic and no moving hardware make the EEE robust.
My idea is to have a small machine I can take to meetings. Not to take notes, but rather to read the internet so I don't get bored. The Treo 750 I have is just a little too small to distract me from the powerpoints and management speak.
This little device is going to ensure I am no longer unproductive in meetings; and fits that niche where a laptop is just too large.
For the future, with Intel, Microsoft and broad OEM support: the number of devices in this form factor is going to increase. How we work across multiple devices is a challenge for the future.