In terms of price, performance, and features the Asus Eee PC hits the trifecta and could be a game-changer in the mobile market. Thanks to its combination of Intel hardware and a non-bloated Linux install, reviewers found that Asus’s little laptop performs just as well as much larger and more expensive Windows notebooks.
The device does support Windows XP, but Linux seems to be the OS of choice of reviewers for performance and ease-of-use reasons. In this respect, Microsoft has well and truly blown it, because this device is poised to introduce a few million Best Buy shoppers to a pleasantly usable, non-embedded Linux distro.^
Linux is far from perfect (BSD is more fun and more stable, especially in a server environment). Windows is not only good, but getting better. However, there are also many advantages to Linux. Among other things, it encourages people to buy white boxes instead of Macs, Dells and HPs.
For some years people have wondered when Linux would make inroads to desktop computing. After all, it is free. However, it doesn’t work on all hardware, and often takes hours of tedious work to make simple changes to the operating system. Also, it does not have the broad software base that Windows has.
What has made Windows predominant is the convergence of several factors: it’s cheap, because most people burn a CD-R from a friend. It works very intuitively, more so than the Mac, although you won’t see this mentioned in the computer media. It is backward compatible with a giant library of software. Simple changes occur quickly, and the operating system gives a lot of power to its users, even if more than they should have sometimes.
The recent rash of viruses, trojans and other Windows problems gave Microsoft a chance to step up to the plate. Their response was to hurry Vista along, because they do not believe that the older versions of Windows can be safe and still support marketing objectives, like pushing ActiveX and BHOs and other Microsofty standards on the rest of us. In the meantime, Apple is selling more machines, but the pretentious, smug and combative users have made more than one ex-user flee in disgust.
Wal-Mart just began selling its $200 PC which uses a relatively non-bloated Linux installation called gOS and online apps from Google. The future of Linux, like that of Intel competitor AMD, is in being cheaper or free and starting out on the lower-end machines. It’s interesting that the machine to do this might be both lower-end and luxury, in that it gives its users the cheap, durable, uncomplicated laptop users have always said they have wanted.
The last time this happened, around 1988, was when Toshiba brought out the T-1000 laptop. It had no hard drive. It had an ugly, simple screen and a squishy, simple keyboard. But it sold for about $700 discount or used, could take a few hours of battery charge, and if you used shareware word processors and telecommunications software, could do everything a $2500 laptop could do and often could do it longer.
Toshiba promptly forgot these lessons, and maybe Asus will as well, but the users have yet again spoken: they want technology that’s durable, cheap, simple and doesn’t get in the way, and if Windows and HP don’t offer it, they’ll rush to whatever savvy marketer rises up with all the dunces in confederacy against him/her and offers it.