On a recent trip to the local discount warehouse shopping club, my junior podcaster Meghan and I ran across a real Asus Eee PC 2GB sub-notebook in the electronics section. (I did have to fight the strong buy impulse. If there was a 4GB version in the store for less than $100 more, I probably would have purchased that unit on the spot. Don’t let anyone tell you price isn’t a factor. Availability, or unavailability in this case, was a bigger factor.)
This was the first time I’ve seen an Eee PC in the “wild” and was rather shocked by it. I was caught of guard by how small the device really was. I know that 7-inches isn’t much smaller than 10-inches, but the Eee PC looked small. As you can see from the photo, if I had both hands on the keyboard, things were going to get a bit cramped. The other thing that I noticed right off the bat was how cheaply made the keys felt. You have to keep in mind that there has to be some trade offs with a $299 sub-notebook. (I must admit that I don’t know if this was a real unit or just a display unit.) I was really hoping to see and play with the Linux OS that was installed on this device. Regrettably, the unit was not charged up or plugged into a power source.
One of the things that I really do like about these ultra portables sub-notebooks is that they are considerably smaller than regular notebook computers. In meetings, I don’t like to use my 15-inch Dell Latitude because I feel that it creates a barrier between myself and the other attendees. With sub-notebook machines, you can still get the utility of a notebook computer for taking notes and minutes in the meeting without creating an “us and them” atmosphere.
I’ve pretty much have come to the conclusion that IR and Bluetooth keyboards used in conjunction with my Palm Treo 755p just isn’t working for me any longer. Alignment and connection issues with the keyboards and Palm OS devices make the solution too time consuming to be useful in a meeting with my peers and customers. An elegant instant on and get down to work device fits my current work style much better.
Last summer I was really spoiled by what I saw in a pre-release version of the Palm Foleo mobile companion. These new crop of sub-notebook computers, of which the Asus Eee PC is one, have really come close to capturing what I though was so special about the Foleo (size, design, ease of use, options, and battery life). I will be interested in seeing a live 9-inch Eee PC when they arrive here in the United States later this year. I’m also interested in seeing how well the rumored HP Compaq 3122 to my memory of the Foleo and the Eee PC.