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The Asus EeePC got a very positive review in my house.  It is small, light, well-built, and started up fast.  Yes, the display is a bit cramped, as is the keyboard.  And yes, it runs yet another weird variant of Linux.  But it has a real browser, connects effortlessly to the internet, and comes with a pretty broad suite of applications.  It is available in a variety of colors.  Battery life is OK – no worse than a typical laptop.  The girls at the high school where my wife teaches think it’s really cute – a good thing if you’re Asus.

What doesn’t the Eee have?  For starters, it doesn’t have a high price.  The entry-level model is a mere $299.  It also doesn’t have a hard drive, high-speed CPU, boatloads of memory, or the latest graphics processor.  It doesn’t show you a sequence of coming attractions of corporate logos when you turn it on.  But what it does, it does well – certainly, well enough to make you think – “Hey, for this price, why not?!”  It wasn’t designed as a replacement for a desktop or traditional laptop machine.  It was designed to fill some of the gaps where a big bulky expensive laptop was inappropriate or unfeasible – for example, a kid’s computer, or an on-the-go companion device.

The Eee adheres to some of the core tenets of the ultra-mobile PC – a low-cost, highly mobile, full-fidelity companion computer.  In fact, the Eee PC hits one of the key UMPC targets dead on; there’s one place where all of the other UMPC products missed – price.  People expect mobile devices to be affordable!  Asus’s R2H UMPC launched at a price point two to three times higher than the Eee, but the basic technology backbone was similar, with a 7” display, low-end Intel CPU/chipset, standard PC I/O and hardware compatibility.  Sure, the R2H also has a hard drive, GPS, Bluetooth, a fingerprint reader and runs real Windows but the additional features don’t justify significantly higher cost.  A $1000 companion device will have few takers regardless of functionality.

Good product design is ultimately as much about what to leave out as what to include.  And with the Eee PC, Asus got a number of things right that they got wrong with their R2H.  It’s small enough to toss in a backpack or bag, light enough to carry all day, inexpensive enough to afford as a secondary computer.

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10 Comments

  1. Otto,
    I see an interesting link between your first and second post. What you’re missing on one side (too long waiting time on a PC) looks like is sorted out on the Eee PC: as you say “what it does, it does well”. At least as long as you can live with what the Eee PC does. In my personal experience the day I bought the Eee PC, more than pushing it to his limits I’ve noticed how it has been instrumental to clarify other devices limitations. Don’t you think that the OS is playing a quite big role here?
    STV

  2. You have rightly associated the eee PC with the UMPC category. Some have ignored the significant importance of what the eee PC has added to the category. Unfortunately UMPC has been a fairly nebulous descriptor for filling the gap between smartphone and regular laptop.

  3. At CES I spent some time with Kevin Toefel of Jkontherun fame. He had scraped the Eee, installed XP. We installed our poduct, e.g. ActiveWords, and it and the Eee performed brilliantly. We have maintained that ActiveWords really shines on devices where the keyboards are either limited or non-existent, e.g. tablets/umpcs.

    If you do go the XP route, where you have all the drivers that work, try ActiveWords on the Eee. Would be curious as to your reaction.

    Regards,

    Buzz

  4. I’m a happy owner of an Eee. Asus has practically opened the door to ultra mobile computing, making it more accessible to the average person who doesn’t want to burn a hole in his pocket.

  5. I keep reading about this machine and sure am intrigued. I haven’t gone looking, but it’s far from certain it’s available here yet in Bangkok, but I’ll bet it’ll be a hit when it does go onto the local market, especially as Internet penetration is increasing rapidly.

  6. Really appreciate your review, Otto!

    Perfect timing as I’m looking for a very user-friendly laptop for my mum. She’s never had a computer before and will be using it mainly for staying in touch through email and Skype.

    You mentioned it runs “yet another weird variant of Linux.” Do you think this would be a problem for an inexperienced user?

    Many thanks and best of luck with your new blog! It’s always nice to come across good writing and expert knowledge in the blogosphere!

  7. “Real” Windows? Not quite getting it are we? One of the reasons ASUS can offer such a reasonably priced UMPC is that they don’t have to pay for the operating system or the sizable number of apps included. ASUS isn’t contractually obligated to incorporate or leave out apps from differing sources.
    They can also recompile and tweak all the code to match the tight confines of the system, and achieve incredibly.

    With a little painless tweaking you can access the lion’s share of debian. I’ve got a full c/c++ and python toolchain on my 4G EEE complete with a tweaked Eclipse IDE, along with Java, PERL and Ruby(just in case). I’m running Stellarium and KStars to control my telescope. I’ve done two crucial presentations so far without a hitch. My bluetooth GPS is running flawlessly with Roadnav. Of course I’m running Firefox, Thunderbird, VNC, telnet, Wireshark and Kismet for connectivity and sys admin. GIMP, Dia and Inkscape for graphics. VNC and XMMS read, play and transcode any media file I can throw at them. I have wine installed for some strange reason. Plays nice with my Nokia N800 (not surprising given that it’s based on a debian variant as well).
    It’s still got plenty of storage left, and I haven’t had to pay a red cent for software. Haven’t seen a hint of a virus either.

    Running Linux would seem to be a feature and not a bug.

  8. I have been testing a EEE PC for the past five days and it really does the trick as a secondary computer.

    The limitations that we find are exactly what is expected – smallish keyboard and screen – but perfectly usable. The storage size is easily overcome with a simple and inexpensive 8 or 16GB SDHC card.

  9. I believe your comments are very apropos and capture the essence o this device.

    I have been using mine (Pearl model with 4 gig.) since early December.

    I enabled the full desktop and added a few programs. It is simply perfect as a second “laptop” when you do not need “heavy-duty” computing power. It was particularly wonderful on my last vacation.

    Kudos on your analysis for accuracy.

    One minor quibble – Xandros is a Debian offshoot – so I am not sure that “weird variant of Linux” really applies.

  10. Per my comments about Linux- I think that for a web-centric environment, the browser is effectively the OS. But as soon as you need to do other common things (manage files, install plugins or programs) I believe most people don’t want to have to learn yet another way of getting the job done. And with Linux, there seems to be a dozen different interfaces that may have a common link to a developer but which will seem foreign to most consumers.


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] has written a blog entry about his thoughts on the Asus Eee PC that is worth a read. The title? Sweet Spot. Here’s an […]

  2. […] Otto Berkes, creator of the Origami project and now Partner Architect in the CEO’s office at M…, takes a look at the ASUS Eee PC. […]

  3. By Top Posts « WordPress.com on 05 Feb 2008 at 4:00 pm

    […] Sweet spot The Asus EeePC got a very positive review in my house.  It is small, light, well-built, and started up fast.  Yes, […] […]

  4. […] Read more from Otto’s blog here. […]

  5. […] Continue reading at Otto Berkes’ Blog addthis_url = ‘http%3A%2F%2Fscalegamer.com%2F2008%2F02%2F06%2Fotto-berkes%25e2%2580%2599-views-on-the-eeepc%2F’; addthis_title = ‘Otto+Berkes%E2%80%99+views+on+the+EeePC’; addthis_pub = ”;  Microsoft   Origami   Otto Berke   UMPC […]

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