Saturday, June 09, 2007

A $200 laptop for everyone: Asus Eee PC 701

The One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC), in it's efforts to produce and inexpensive flash-memory laptop for children in developing countries, has been inspiring competitors to create similar inexpensive laptops. One of the latest ones was recently announced by Asustek, a Taiwan company.

Predicted to be available in the 3rd quarter, the Asus Eee PC will be a flash-memory laptop made for easy access to the internet. With a built-in camera and Wi-Fi, it's aimed at a wide variety of users:

Here is a 90 second promo video for the Asus Eee PC 701 [YouTube]

PC World Magazine offers a first look review:
First Look: Asustek's $199 PC
[...] Jointly developed by Intel and Asustek, the Eee PC will hit the market during the third quarter, most likely in August or September. The notebook will be aimed at education users, but it should also be available more widely.

Prices are going to start at $199, rising based on the amount of flash memory that comes with the machine instead of a hard disk. Currently, Asustek plans to sell models with 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB of flash, but that may change between now and when the first Eee PCs go on sale.

Measuring 9 inches wide by 6.6 inches deep, the Eee PC 701 is about 1.5 inches thick with the screen closed and weighs just 31 ounces. Other specifications include a 7-inch monitor, a 300,000-pixel camera, 512MB of DDR2 memory, and Wi-Fi. Next year, Asustek plans to introduce a second Eee PC model, the 1001, which will have a 10-inch screen.


Whatever chip it's using, the Eee PC doesn't run hot. The prototype I tested had been running continuously for at least six hours when I picked it up, and the machine was barely warm to the touch. Asustek said the notebook can run for three hours on battery, which is sufficient for surfing the Web or checking e-mail, but I would like more. Unfortunately, Asustek doesn't have plans to offer an extended-life battery for the Eee PC. Hopefully it will offer extra batteries as an option.

The keyboard and trackpad are slightly small due to the Eee PC's size, but I was able to type comfortably. The keyboard felt fine for typing out e-mails or surfing the Web, but I prefer a full-size keyboard for typing for an extended period of time. [...]

The reviewer says the machine was running Linux (Xandros), but I have read elsewhere that it is capable of running Windows XP also.

This laptop is aimed at a broad market, and shows a lot of promise. Many see it as a blow to the OLPC project, with potential to take away OLPC's market share. In my opinion, OLPC's laptop, XO, still has many unique advantages; very low power requirements, a hand operated recharger, a screen that can be read in sunlight, and a rugged casing and design specifically developed for children. Perhaps their biggest obstacle is their marketing and distribution strategy, which relies too heavily on large orders by assorted government ministries.

Negroponte's "$100 Laptop" Blowback: Asustek's Eee PC
[...] Now there is the ASUS Eee PC and it doesn't even pretend to be a pure education play. Oh yes, it does borrow heavily from OLPC with its tagline of "Easy to Learn, Work and Play" but do not be fooled. This is not a computer for children. This is One Low-Cost Laptop For Everyone.

With such a broad target, there are going to be instant winners and losers. The first winners will be anyone who wants a low-cost computer and can afford the $200-300 price point. This includes students and adults in the developing world who are not part of OLPC's target market of young children and might find the Sugar UI to be childish anyway. They are now going to be seen as a viable market, one even giants like Intel should focus research, development, and production resources to serve. [...]

OLPC has awakened awareness of new potential markets for fanless, flash-memory, low power use, low cost laptops, and it's only natural that laptop makers will start to compete for market share. OLPC's XO laptop is unique, as it aims to reach not just children, but the poorest, the least likely to afford a computer, and is constructed to function in environments where more typical laptop technology and construction would not fair well.

The OLPC XO laptop thus has unique advantages in the education market, but much depends on HOW it is used:

No Comparison: OLPC XO is the Low-Cost Laptop for Teaching

Ultimately, I see the competition for this market as a good thing:

Competition for OLPC: shameful, or good?



Anonymous said...

Hey it is a nice decision from the Asus and it can be helpful to all the people...

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently discussing about how we as human beings are so hooked onto electronics. Reading this post makes me think back to that discussion we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further develops, the possibility of copying our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could encounter in my lifetime.

(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=]R4i[/url] DS SysBro)