Monday, January 21, 2008

the fuss over Asus eee

Re-posting here generally all of my hubs' post from our wedblog on the Asus eee:)

One of these toys which I have been craving for since late last year would be the Asus eee PC. An itsy-bitsy (a 9 by 5 inch laptop) little monster which really packs a big punch. This little baby can be categorized either as an Ultra-Mobile PC (which I disagree with since most of the gadgets in this category have touch screens), a Sub-Notebook (but again most of the laptops in this category are of the 9 to 12 inch screen category), or a Palm-top (which is sometimes mixed with PDAs). I wouldn’t spend much time talking about the specifications of this laptop since its website and wiki’s provide detailed information on this aspect. Nor would I attempt to give a complete technical review about this product, since by just typing the key words “asus eee pc reviews” in your search engine of choice would result to a plethora of references (well this site offers one of the most complete listings of reviews). Most if not all would say that that this little baby is a lean, mean, value for your money machine which has two flaws, the keyboard is a bit cramped and the laptop tends to be a bit warm after a while. But again these flaws are considered minor given the fact that this little baby is priced at US$400 (prices in the Manila range from Php 17, 000 – Php 20,000). What I would try to attempt is to answer my wife’s question, why I really want one of these little suckers given the fact that I am issued a Dual Core laptop with 2GB Memory at work, and have 2 desktops at home (well one actually needs reformatting), 2 pdas (both Palms), 1 media player, and 1 PDA Phone (Windows Mobile / PPC)? (aside from your 2 other phones, Baby, and the laptop I use - Wife)

Well besides the “want” factor, I am already resigned to the fact that I would not be able to justify purchasing an Asus eee PC. But I believe the main reason that fires up my butt (so to speak) about this product is that it is like owning the first batch of Apple PCs handmade by Steve Wozniak and marketed by Steve Jobs (founders of the Apple Computer and two of the founding fathers of the Personal Computer). Asus eee PC has opened the market to a whole new niche in the “techie” and non-technical consumer market, and has awaken the true meaning of what a “hacker” really is.

For the non-technical consumer market this product offers a compact and mobile machine that would serve the purpose of surfing the internet and have the basic software to do productivity tasks. The eee PC does not come pre-installed with Windows, but rather with a well thought-out and designed distribution of Linux (Xandros to be exact). The interface, icons and applications that is installed as a factory default is very easy to navigate and use, that even a non Windows user can readily use the laptop (this link would serve as a good example of what I mean). And yet for those who opt to stick it out with the most common of operating system, Windows, this laptop is certified to run on Windows XP, though as of current is not offered as a factory default.

Now for gadget-freaks / techie people like myself this wonderful gadget has brought about the following frames of thought. First and foremost, that it is indeed feasible to manufacture a cost-effective computing system at a fraction of the price. This laptop would not compare to the computing power and capacities of a high end laptop (best example would be the hard disk size, 4 gigabytes on the eee PC as compared to the 120 Gigabyte average on most of the newer laptops) and yet the fact still remains, prices for computing products can be brought down if products are well thought out, well-designed and efficiently manufactured. A second factor that tickles my fancy is the fact that since this product was introduced to the market, a vast explosion of technically inclined and talented people have so to speak “thought out of the box” in order to surpass the limitations of the base product. People had ventured out to modify this product to see the best benefit they can do with the laptop. In all true sense of this activity (creating software and hardware mods – modifications), the original essence of what a “hacker” comes about. (Overview section).

The most common modification done with this laptop is how to extend the hardisk capacity from the base 4 Gigabyte hardisk to a 20 Gigabyte or even 30 Gigabyte machine. Modifications also range from adding in the capability to connect devices via infrared or Bluetooth, to making the LCD screen into a touch screen unit. And these modifications does not stop with just the hardware, various attempts are successfully documented in the areas of installing different kinds of operating systems on the Asus eee PC. And even up to the level of creating improved video drivers for the eee. And because of the limitations of the base unit, the community of Asus eee PC users continuously test and overcome application limitations on the unit (as this forum proves: list of games you can run on the Asus eee PC). In some aspects the Asus eee PC is now being considered as the new generation “hobby pc”, a tool to exercise one’s ability to be creative and imaginative.

The last and definitely not the least of my reasons (for I know I can add in more and more reasons being the gadget freak that I am) is not much a reason to why I would like to have one of these hot item, but more why I am thankful that Asus came out with this product: To prove that with demand follows competition. I may not be able to own an Asus eee 701-4G PC but a possibility might arise that I’d get it’s leaner competitor (well this laptop comes with a 30 Gigabyte base unit) made by Everex hoping that the landed price in the Philippines would not differ much from its published price (published at US$399). Or another possibility since I would always favour owning a Tablet PC / Ultra Mobile PC over these subnotebooks / Palm Tops, is for me to wait for the LimePC line (published at US$300) to come out into the market and hope that it can also be software modified.

I’d like to own an Asus eee PC to feed my thirst to have one of the best developed “value for your money” I.T. product there is in the market to date. If tomorrow a manufacturer comes out with a US$200 9-Inched Dual Core Tablet PC with 4GB Memory and 250GB Solid State Hardisk that is as thin as the new Mac Book Air and can run the Operating System and application of my choice, then I’d acquire that in a heartbeat, but then it would also mean I’d need to wake up from my dream or wake up 50 years from now.

~ Jojo

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