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Portables The Almighty Buck Hardware

War Brewing on the Inexpensive Laptop Front 370

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the cheaper-just-means-more-toys-faster dept.
The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting look at the war brewing on the inexpensive laptop front. With everything from the Eee PC to the OLPC, the trend in slimming and trimming seems to be continuing. "The market segment is so new it doesn't have a name yet or even an agreed-upon set of specifications. Intel, the chipmaker, calls the category "netbooks," recognizing that much of what people do on their laptops involves going on the Net. The new machines are also being called ultra-low-cost PCs, mininotebooks, or even mobile Internet gadgets. In appearance, they have the familiar clamshell design, but they're smaller, with seven- to 10-inch screens. They offer full keyboards (albeit with smaller keys) and weigh less than three pounds. Perhaps most important, the majority cost less than $500 - some as little as $299. Intel says it expects more than 50 million of these netbooks to be sold by 2011. It's introduced a tiny, low-power processor to run them called Atom, which puts 47 million transistors on a chip about the size of a penny."
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War Brewing on the Inexpensive Laptop Front

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  • Palm or PocketPC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KevMar (471257) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:39PM (#23304624) Homepage Journal
    why not give them a Palm or PocketPC with a bit larger display and a keyboard.

    what more do they need?

    I bet you can get every TYPE of application they need on one of those.
    So it wont run MS office or possibly even open office. But do they need much more than a notepad with spellcheck?
    • are you kidding? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nguy (1207026) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:49PM (#23304744)
      Have you looked at PalmOS or Windows Mobile? They suck as operating systems. PalmOS isn't even multitasking. Windows Mobile has numerous restrictions relative to desktop Windows. Furthermore, no, they don't offer "every type of application". Many applications for those systems are designed for tiny screens and don't scale up. Also, having two different kinds of apps on the mobile and desktop system is a major headache. If that kind of stripped down OS and application appeals to you, get a keyboard for your phone.

      Fortunately, it's not an either/or choice: Linux actually scales really nicely from mobile to desktop devices.
      • so long as it supports remote desktop connection..

        I can run the horsepower I have at home just fine.
      • by faragon (789704)
        You're right. It's so sad to se a powerful 520MHz ARM XScale processor in the Toshiba Portege G900 running Windows Mobile 7... it is slower than my old 8MHz 8086 running GEM (from Digital Research) !!!

        Unfortunately, I found no way of loading Linux in it (some other smartphone devices such as the ones made by HTC are easier to hack).

        P.S. I did not bought the smartphone, it was a present from the company for which I work, for my personal use, and also to be able to test some nice remote desktop access sof
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BigFoot48 (726201)
      No one is writing software for the Palm and Pocket PC anymore. Vibrant websites on PDAs four years ago are now dead, with latest reviews being 2006. If it can't run XP, I don't want it. I'll be buying an Eee PC 900 the week they come out in the US. --A "proud" owner of two Pocket PCs--
    • by fygment (444210) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:00PM (#23304878)
      Who are 'they' and 'them' and why are you assuming you know what they need? Seems like ASUS Eee's success suggests that it nailed what 'they' and 'them' need.
    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:51PM (#23305364) Homepage Journal

      I bet you can get every TYPE of application they need on one of those. So it wont run MS office or possibly even open office. But do they need much more than a notepad with spellcheck?

      I have an Eee PC for work. It has GCC, Python, Emacs, and the PostgreSQL client programs installed. You say "notepad with spellcheck". I say "tiny development system that lets me telecommute from my backyard on sunny days".

      For me (and apparently millions of others), the Eee PC is the sweet spot for portable computing. It's small enough that I don't think twice about dragging it along wherever I'm going, and yet big enough that I'm not giving up anything. No "portable OS" will ever match the flexibility it offers.

      • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday May 05, 2008 @07:04PM (#23305998)
        Intel is fighting the march of ARM CPUs in this space, but ARM is inevitable because it is cheaper and uses less power than x86. This means an ARM-based system can be smaller, lighter and have an extended battery life, which is why pretty much every cell phone and palmtop system use ARM.

        Ubuntu has got into the early stages of doing ARM distros, so ARM based systems with Ubuntu ease of use are potentially just around the corner.

        Linux is still emerging as the primary portable OS. Unlike WinCE (which is a very nobbled thing that tries to look like Windows), ARM Linux is the real thing - using the same kernel code as any other Linux.

        • ARM took off in the thin and light space because of the watts. The thing is that ARM cannot compete with Atom in toolchain or processing power or available software or available hardware.

          ARM can get better but there's a reason Intel sold it. It may live on in phones and devices like that.

          For internet everywhere devices, no. Look at the available choices for browsers on ARM platforms. Blech. The Atom devices and their counterparts from via will run modern operating systems (but not vista) and familiar

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Just Some Guy (3352)

            Look at the available choices for browsers on ARM platforms.

            Do Firefox, Konqueror etc. not compile on ARM?

            The Atom devices and their counterparts from via will run modern operating systems (but not vista)

            -1: Redundant

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mollymoo (202721) *
            The browser on Nokia's ARM-based Internet Tablets is built around the same version of the Gecko rendering engine used in Firefox 3.0. AJAX, Flash, RealPlayer; everything works.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by siwelwerd (869956)

        I have an Eee PC for work. It has GCC, Python, Emacs, and the PostgreSQL client programs installed. You say "notepad with spellcheck". I say "tiny development system that lets me telecommute from my backyard on sunny days".

        But is there room for a text editor on there? ;)

  • It makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by loose electron (699583) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:41PM (#23304638) Homepage
    These devices serve a need - web surf, email, document edit, spreadsheets. If you exclude gamers, thats 80% of the market for a laptop. Personally, lugging a big heavy laptop is a no-go for a lot of us.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      I have a $500 full size laptop, and I don't find it hard to carry around by any means. It's has a 14.1 inch screen and is pretty light and pretty thin. It weighs just over 5 lbs, battery included. Comparing it to the eee PC, it's quite a bit bigger, but neither one can just be shoved in your pocket as you leave the house. Both of them require some kind of backpack or shoulder bag to bring with you. So as far as I see it, the ultraportables, don't really offer much in terms of portability, because you
      • Re:It makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Blahbooboo3 (874492) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:24PM (#23305110)

        I have a $500 full size laptop, and I don't find it hard to carry around by any means. It's has a 14.1 inch screen and is pretty light and pretty thin. It weighs just over 5 lbs, battery included. Comparing it to the eee PC, it's quite a bit bigger, but neither one can just be shoved in your pocket as you leave the house. Both of them require some kind of backpack or shoulder bag to bring with you. So as far as I see it, the ultra portables, don't really offer much in terms of portability, because you can' just put them in your pocket, and a standard laptop lets you get your work done much easier.
        Have you ever carried for business travel a 3lb or less laptop? When you feel what a big difference it is when you are lugging it on your shoulder for hours versus the 5+ lbs model then you realize it IS a big difference.

        Oh, so you say pack it in your carry on? Yep, have done that too. Trust me you can feel the weight difference (part of it is the weight distribution of the larger laptops) when you're climbing stairs or up escalators or lifting it to the overheard space on the place .... etc etc etc

        And it is not like I am a small out of shape guy. Any weight held or carried for a period of time gets heavy.

        I love my 2.8 lb thinkpad. I would NEVER go back to the former Compaq 5-6lbs model EVER for my usage on the road.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MojoStan (776183)

        I have a $500 full size laptop, and I don't find it hard to carry around by any means. It's has a 14.1 inch screen and is pretty light and pretty thin.

        I agree that $500 can buy a lot of value these days. For example, Dell's $500 base Vostro 1400 [dell.com] (with Core 2 based Celeron) can do a lot more than an Eee PC.

        but neither one can just be shoved in your pocket as you leave the house. Both of them require some kind of backpack or shoulder bag to bring with you. So as far as I see it, the ultraportables, don't really offer much in terms of portability, because you can' just put them in your pocket, and a standard laptop lets you get your work done much easier.

        This is where I disagree with your opinion. When carrying your laptop around, the size/weight difference between an Eee PC and a 5-lb 14" laptop is huge. At 8.9" x 6.5" x 1.4" and approximately 2 lbs, the Eee PC is comparable in "footprint" to a DVD box [anandtech.com] (just a little longer). I think many users can just carry an Eee PC around in one hand. Unlike a 14"

        • would have the screen from the OLPC. I have an OLPC, and I love it. The keyboard, obviously, is too small (kid sized by design), and the processor could be faster for use where power is more plentiful - i.e. the Eee PC is nearly ideal, except the screen seems cramped after using the OLPC. Also, the reflective mode for use in daylight is very nice.
    • Re:It makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kolbe (320366) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:05PM (#23304940) Homepage
      As a Systems Administrator, I just need a device that can give me Internet and shell access. When I travel to customer sites or abroad, I absolutely loath lugging around a laptop. What Admin doesn't wish they had a small portable device for connecting to LOM's, Devices, or Serial Consoles? With a USB RS-232 Serial Adapter and WiFi, one can reasonably do it all with less.

      My Eee PC with Slackware 12.1 is probably the best thing I could have hoped for. It just does everything a UNIX Admin needs and is very compact... now I have more room for my Frappacino's and O-Scope in my bag!

      Gotta be thankful Technology is getting to the point where smaller is becoming affordable.
    • I'm pretty sure I'll be buying an EEE for my daughter when she starts college in the fall. She 'needs' IM, document editing, and web browsing. Why spend twice as much for a 'full featured' laptop? If she wants a gaming PC she can save her money and buy one!
    • by DogDude (805747) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:25PM (#23305114) Homepage
      Personally, lugging a big heavy laptop is a no-go for a lot of us.

      If you're talking about modern laptops, I'd like to suggest that you talk to a doctor. No grown adult should consider a 5 lb, 10"x16" chunk of plastic either "big" or "heavy", and it shouldn't require "lugging".
      • Some of us don't have the luxury of being healthy enough to consider 5lbs light at all times.
      • "If you're talking about modern laptops, I'd like to suggest that you talk to a doctor."

        OK, hold your arm out for a half-hour. Your arm is only a few pounds, but it gets sore pretty quick.

        If that doesn't convince you, talk to a soldier who carries a 5 lb. gun all day. You'll begin to hear a lot about how a little bit of weight makes a lot of difference.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by instarx (615765)

        I'd like to suggest that you talk to a doctor. No grown adult should consider a 5 lb, 10"x16" chunk of plastic either "big" or "heavy", and it shouldn't require "lugging"

        Clearly you don't do much traveling through airports or even from the rental car counter to the car park "lugging" bags and computers. Sure 5 lbs is no big deal when all you have to do is carry the PC from a car to the coffee bar by itself, but when you ADD 5 lbs to your load and then carry all that from gate to gate, or parking to terminal, or baggage pick-up to the taxi stand it can be a major backache.

  • I am interested in getting my bro (15 yrs) an EEE PC to give him some exposure to coding (Python) see if he likes it or not. However, there will be little to no wifi for him to he hoping on... so I am wondering useful the EEE PC will be for this, especially coupled with the small screen and keyboard size. The prize point does make it my top pick right now however. Any one have any experience with this?
    • Have you considered looking here [ebay.com]?
    • However, there will be little to no wifi for him to he hoping on.

      why not just get a wifi router, they dont cost much these days.
      Alternatively expose him to aircrack-ng (http://xkcd.com/416/ [xkcd.com])

      However if its not really going to be used as an ultraportable, then why not stick a cheap desktop together as for about the price of an EEE you can build a low spec desktop than can be built upon at a later date, ( e.g if he moves on to compiled languages).

    • by nguy (1207026) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:59PM (#23304868)
      I love my Eee PC. It's great for note taking and web browsing. But it's not good for programming and would probably be a frustrating first computer.

      If your goal is to get your brother interested in programming, don't make him use a tiny monitor and keyboard, get him a low-end desktop PC with a real keyboard and acceptable screen. If you're on a budget, you can pick up a used monitor for almost nothing and spend everything on the box.
  • ...is the Osbourbe 1.5, if the screen size is anything to go by.
  • by sm62704 (957197)
    The new machines are also being called ultra-low-cost PCs, mininotebooks, or even mobile Internet gadgets

    Cool, I always wanted my own MIG [wikipedia.org]!
  • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:46PM (#23304708)
    What about Palmtops, or H/PC? [wikipedia.org]

    Remember the NEC Mobile Pro, or the HP Jornada? Practically the same formfactor, reborn.

    • Honestly, if a WinCE handheld (meaning pretty much anything running whatever the latest Mobile version of Windows) had a decent sized screen with a resolution of 1024x768 or more, and even the tiniest of actual QWERTY keyboard (like the one on the Rumor cell phone) - it would completely own the world.

      I use a hx4700 right now and the only two issues stopping it from replacing my laptop for 90% of what I do are - 640x480 screens quit being useful about 12 years ago, and the on-screen touch keyboard at that re
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by poot_rootbeer (188613)
        The [WinCE] applications are pretty much there. When I'm on the road I need wifi enabled IE or Firefox to surf the web / do web enabled work. I need to view pictures, maybe edit a .doc or .xls. I need my calendar and the ability to queue up emails for my work mailbox (sync'ed with Outlook when I am anywhere near my work network.) That's about it - anything else is gravy.

        To the road-warrior business traveler, maybe.

        The platform is still pretty useless to the application developer, the artist, the musician, t
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by LaughingCoder (914424)

          The platform is still pretty useless to the application developer

          Do you know this from experience? Because I have done quite a bit of developing on Smartphone and Windows Mobile. And these weren't toy applications - they were fat client applications involving quite a bit of math, multithreading, multimedia (audio), network IO, and a fairly complicated UI. In addition, I was able to use the exact same source tree for both the desktop client and the mobile client, with just a smattering of ifdefs to cover ov

      • Check out the HP 2133 Mini-note. 8.9" screen running at ~1280x768.
    • Tandy 100 was a better fit, full sized keyboard and a week on AA batteries.
  • by elh_inny (557966) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:46PM (#23304714) Homepage Journal
    To me that the natural directions - chips are getting smaller, consume less power, so getting ultra-portable gets more affordable.

    Now the limiting factor in usability of those devices seem to be not the processing power, but human interaction.

    Both the keyboard and the screen are inevitably small, which makes typing and reading a challenge.
    Some say that the future is in portable projectors and virtual keyboards, but that doesn't seem to be the ultimate solution - you need two flat surfaces and some headroom for those, which seems not to be the case for instance in an airplane.

    I think challenges like efficient voice commands, or even brain waves (aka NIA) are the solution for input.

    For the output again a direct interface to the nerves or to the eye, or else, there will still be need for full sized peripherals, so it won't matter how small can the computers themselves get.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      Wearables might come into their own. The screen can be shrunk to the size of a pair of glasses (and a stereo display means you can move the apparent position of the screen). Keyboards are a little more tricky but perhaps people will be okay wearing them on their wrists or on a belt.

      Voice commands are interesting. This does need an improvement in technology to really be viable still, but that probably will happen. Then we just need to have someone come up with a really good verbal UI. Yeah, it will
      • "...a really good verbal UI."

        "Computer. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot!"

        Yeah, that will be a big hurdle to get over, but possible.
        The other problem I can see that would need addressed is this:
        Imagine going into a Starbuck's....packed with caffeinated yuppies yakking to their PC's--it would be overwhelming!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrchaotica (681592) *

      That's why I always wanted one of these [pcworld.com]. It was lightweight like an EEE or whatever, but it had a 10" screen, reasonable keyboard, and was really thin (if it's not thinner than the MacBook Air, it was at least close). There's a lower limit to the length and width if you want good usability, but you can always make it thinner and lighter...

      Aside from the slow processor and the fact that it wasn't a Tablet PC, it was almost perfect. I wish they'd bring it back with those deficiencies removed -- even at $1000

    • I think challenges like efficient voice commands,

      Unfortunatly if you try using voice commands in crowded areas/trains youll end up with plenty of spam.

      even brain waves (aka NIA)

      Unfortunatly i dont want to actually load up porn every 6 seconds, if the computer was reading my brainwaves i would never get any work done, check slashdot,XKCD,forums,pron o wait it doesnt even need to read my mind.

      I think the trick is to cross bread them with phones, youll end up with something like the N810, but hopefully bigger so the keyboard is usable while loosing the requirement of a surface to u

    • by grumbel (592662)

      Both the keyboard and the screen are inevitably small, which makes typing and reading a challenge.

      Reading isn't a problem with a 7" screen, since you basically have the same usable width as with a piece of A4/letter paper, in terms of height you of course have to scroll, but that isn't much of an issue. Much more important than size is DPI, but the OLPC has that area with its 200dpi pretty well covered. The only area where screensize can be an issue is if you have dozens of windows floating around, but as long as you maximize them or run in fullscreen you won't really have a problem.

      The keyboard on the

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by coaxial (28297)
      Voice commands will never be a primary interaction method. Why? It's just too hard to speak. Think about it. When you speak, you can literally think of nothing beyond the next word you're going to say. Under fMRI scans, the brain lights up when given even the most basic spoken interaction tasks. Conversely, when someone is interacting with the world in a nonverbal way, the brain is less active, thus allowing multiple tasks (e.g. thinking about something else) to take place.

      Also, lets just look at the
    • by DrYak (748999) on Monday May 05, 2008 @08:46PM (#23306754) Homepage
      Until these Sci-Fi input devices become mainstream, you could always count on foldable keyboard [brighthand.com].

      Even since my PalmIIIc period, I've been using foldable keyboard (by think outside and the like).
      Note, I'm not speaking about the clamshell ones [cnetfrance.fr], nor the rollable ones [computeractive.co.uk].
      I'm speaking about a box which has almost the same size as the Palm it self. It unfolds like an accordion in 4 parts. Once you've laid it flat, you slide the keys from the outer parts and you get a complete Desktop size ~90 keyboard (only lacks a keypad). This "sliding" locks the keyboard in open position, so you don't need a full flat place to used (compared to laser+infrared virtual keyboards) and you get actual tactile feed-back (not virtual keys. Real keys, which have the same size as those from your desktop).

      Did all my note-taking at the university using such systems.

      The best part is, now with the advent of common standard communication protocols like bluetooth, they produce one single model that fits for any bt-enabled PDA/smartphone/whatever (unlike back then, when they had to provide 1 model for every different proprietary connector that the market has come up with, and you had to rebuy a new one each time you changed your PDA).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jhoger (519683)
      Why the constant fixation on laptop size? There is a natural laptop size, and it is related to human eyesight and type-ability.

      I think the point is not to make the gadgets smaller. In fact I think the eeePC goes to far already.

      Just focus on making them lighter, more power efficient, easy to use without a mouse, cool running, and instant-on/off. That's where the effort should be placed.
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:46PM (#23304720) Homepage
    I personally find a full-sized fully-functional laptop much better. You can get them around $500 right now, and most of them will browse the Internet and write up simple office documents quite well. The mini-laptops are nice as a third computer (desktop, laptop, mini-laptop), but like the SMART car, are only useful to those who can afford to have the third one as a luxury.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:53PM (#23304794) Journal
      If you have a desktop, and a mini-laptop, why do you need a full sized laptop?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        Because if you actually want to get any real work done while away from home, a laptop works a lot better. An ultraportable is good for some web surfing, or some simple document editing. Maybe sending a few emails. But if you have to do any coding, edit some images (larger than the screen resolution), or work on large spreadsheets, then the tiny screen and cramped keyboard could prove to be quite limiting.
    • by wattrlz (1162603)

      I disagree. Most users only need a laptop to play mp3s, chat, shop, and do light web stuff. The heavy stuff is why you have a first computer. If a contingency comes up where you need to create a multimedia presentation or write a thesis before you can get to your main box you can always borrow the local geek's portable gaming rig or use the desktop in the library or the back room. If you need massive screen real estate or processing power on a regular basis from your secondary computer, chances are you're

    • A full laptop is a hot, heavy, short lived mother to lug around. And is the latest dual core or multi-ghz processor really necessary for anything but gaming, visual arts and number crunching? Something lighter, cooler, and with a longer battery life to surf, email, do some light editing, and read an e-boook seems to be in order for day to day living.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        I'm not saying you need a super fast machine. On the contrary. You could have a low power computer, but just make it full size.
    • by couchslug (175151)
      "are only useful to those who can afford to have the third one as a luxury."

      That's still a lot of people, and with sufficient market penetration used units will trickle down to other folks.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:47PM (#23304732) Journal
    From the article, "Many run on an operating system called Linux, favored by the technorati but little known among most computer users."

    Is this really a problem? I think that most of the people who don't know Linux aren't really aware of what Windows is either. They'll probably call any windowing system "Windows". As long as there are pictures to click on and it opens windows, it will be of little or no concern.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iamhigh (1252742) *

      I think that most of the people who don't know Linux aren't really aware of what Windows is either

      You are right... but wrong. They may not know what Windows is, but they do know that they use it at work, their current computer, and they know that "windows is on everything" and "windows just works".

      Yes they may not understand what an OS is, but they know Windows and they know where the start menu is and where hearts and solitare is. They also know that Windows is the old fogey next to the cool Mac guy.

      However there are many computer friendly people that have no idea what Linux is. It could be a

    • by sayfawa (1099071) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:18PM (#23305064)
      It didn't sound to me like the article was making it out to be a problem. It didn't say it was a bad thing that these ultra-portables run Linux. It just simply stated that most people haven't heard of Linux. In addition, it complimented Linux by saying that smart people like it. That's almost as good as saying "Try Linux, you'll like it unless you're stupid".
    • The problem is that the folks who call whatever windowing system they see "Windows" is that they buy off-the-shelf software and are going to be pissed when their new computer doesn't run Extreme Cookbook 2005 or Big Buck Deer Hunter that they bought in a box at Walmart or the AOL client that their 6 year old beige beast does. They put a lot of stock in "name brand" more than any OSS philosophy or real usability (and probably don't even know an OSS alternative exists). There is a crowd that can figure out th
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gatzke (2977)

      Just at a NSF conference and the keynote speaker tried to pull up a ppbx, not a ppt. It did not work.

      I know there are converters for free. I know breaking compatibility helps drive sales. But sometimes, things don't open like you want and most people don't know (or care) why.

      They have a converter for docx to doc, maybe oo can get it to work with wine so open office can automagically open everything? Or maybe it already has docx support?
      http://www.oooninja.com/2008/02/office-compatibility-pack-review.htm [oooninja.com]
  • Yes... but can it run Vista...
  • Except if you never heard about a company that sells dumb terminals for a PC including virtualization software. Google for Ncomputing in that case. It's not a laptop.
  • Why are these machines so expensive? You can get a core duo lappy with a SXGA 15" panel, 2GB/160GB and a DVD burner for $650 brand spanking new (bluetooth, centrino, all that... from Dell) so why can't I get 200MHz single-core, bluetooth and maybe wifi, a VGA-res 16-bit color transflective TFT (say, 5"?) and an SD slot or two (3xSDIO+SDHC would be ideal, barring more slots) for around $200 or less? Four hours is sufficient battery life, although I would like more. I'm not going to write a novel on it. For t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drsmithy (35869)

      Why are these machines so expensive?

      Because price only scales up with features, not down.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Because price only scales up with features, not down.

        It currently costs only $130 to produce the XO and that's got a dual-resolution screen, an internal mesh-networking wireless access point, and a fantastic power system, as well as some storage, audio... I call shenanigans.

    • Re:Why so expensive? (Score:5, Informative)

      by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:17PM (#23305056)

      For that matter, why is an XO $300?
      The current production cost of an XO is ~188 USD [wikipedia.org]. This is how much they cost as part of the "Give one Get one" program (the other ~$200 was a charitable donation).

      Why are these machines so expensive?
      Just because you can get specs X for $650 doesn't mean you can get specs X/2 for $325. There are all kinds of reasons (size of market, supply and demand, scaling of technology, base costs, etc.)... but the end result is that for most metrics, the "metric per dollar" vs. "cost" graph is non-linear. There is a sweet spot of lowest dollar/performance, with fringe cases (ultra-cheap or ultra-performance) having a price premium.

      In the case of these ultra-portables, a significant fraction of the cost also comes from the engineering and components required to make them so small and lightweight. You can of course get a clunky 200MHz laptop for real cheap (old model off eBay, for example), but it will not be as light or slick as the Eee PC or others.

      The prices will probably keep dropping. But frankly I'm amazed at how cheap these ultra-portables already are: compare the performance, size, and price to what was available even 5 years ago and see how far we've come!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zippthorne (748122)
        Yeah, they claimed that it was only $188, but since you could never buy one for $200, only $400, I've got to say that the real cost could've been anywhere less than $400. And the "Give one" part of the G1G1 could've been a scam where you and several others combined to give one.

        Where's the evidence that the G1s actually shipped?
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Scale is not directly proportional to price. If it were, a nano-battery would cost next to nothing to buy. Wait until the demand picks up (and it will, because these are currently at a good price point), and you'll see parts manufacturers making more and more parts for these little guys, and the price will drop slightly, increasing demand again. Hopefully the price for bigger machines doesn't increase due to parts shortages though.
  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:59PM (#23304858)
    It seems like when you're dealing with price points of one to several hundred dollars, this is a big deal for free software, specifically Linux. When you're talking about adding anywhere from 25% to 100% of the cost of the computer just for the operating system, it paints things in a different light. That, and you'd have to put an older (soon to be non-supported) version of Windows (XP) on the thing. I can't see these running Vista anytime in the near future.

    Should be interesting to see how this impacts the OS playing field...
    • by drsmithy (35869)

      It seems like when you're dealing with price points of one to several hundred dollars, this is a big deal for free software, specifically Linux. When you're talking about adding anywhere from 25% to 100% of the cost of the computer just for the operating system, it paints things in a different light.

      Which is why, if necessary, Microsoft will just have a specially-priced version of Windows just for the OEMs selling them.

      That, and you'd have to put an older (soon to be non-supported) version of Windows (X

    • If as a lot of people claim one of the main bariers to linux use is that nobody even knows about it, then 'netbooks' , andriod & ubuntu are going doing a hell of a lot to fix that.

      Once people know about & are familiar with linux thats leaves us with:
      Interoperability (this ones pretty much solved tbh)
      Pre-installed OEMs (well dells got our back here)
      Hardware support (getting better)
      Coherent Interface (hmm i cant actually see this getting fixed)
      Lack of proprietary software
      To sort out.
  • OLPC Redux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by speroni (1258316) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:06PM (#23304948) Homepage
    The OLPC looked like an awesome product when it started. I was designed for use in the middle of no where for children in under developed nations. There was a buy one - give one program going on but that got shut down for some reason.

    Lately Negroponte decided it should go with windows instead of the original open source OS, which prompted Bender to resign. And there is a general sense that they have sold out.

    For a while it looked promising, I wanted to pick one up. Thought it would be great for camping. Get some PDF books and read it on the go in the open sunlight with a water resistant clam shell and a hand crank power supply. This seemed much better than a Kindle to me.

    There was even a lot of DIY home brew hacks going on at first. People using it along with Arduino for some neat applications.

    Alas... why must everyone sell out.
  • UMPCs (Score:5, Informative)

    by HeavensBlade23 (946140) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:11PM (#23305022)
    I was under the impression the preferred nomenclature was "UMPC". That's what I always hear them referred to as.
    • Re:UMPCs (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tchuladdiass (174342) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:55PM (#23305418) Homepage
      UMPCs are a bit smaller (similar size or slightly bigger than a Sharp Zaurus SL-C3100), but have a more powerful processor, more ram, and a much shorter battery life than these new devices. Oh, and they also run about $2000.00 or so.
      These netbooks are a hybrid of the laptop and UMPC concept -- keep shrinking the laptop until the point that the price would start going up, then cut back the processing power & memory until it is the minimum to run their target apps (web browser, email, productivity apps).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DECS (891519)
      UMPC is Microsoft's new name for its old tablet idea. It does not encompass mini Linux laptops like the EEE PC, ultra cheap Linux systems like the XO, WiFi handheld mobiles like the iPhone, very thin but expensive laptops like the MacBook Air, or any other products that might be ultra mobile but not from Microsoft.

      Last year, UMPC units didn't sell a million units. That's why nobody is in any hurry to call their product a "UMPC." That, and its a stupid name that almost appears to be designed to prevent sales
  • Netbook? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:27PM (#23305136) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, if all you need to do with a laptop is surf websites, then an iPod touch is better since it fits in your pocket when you're not using it. It also has email, Google Maps and YouTube. No it doesn't have a real mechanical keyboard, it doesn't have IM (yet), the screen isn't as big and the browser doesn't support Flash.

    A small laptop may be more powerful and allow you to install other applications without limitations, however if you don't always carry it with you it doesn't really matter.

    If it can't fit in my pocket, I'm not carrying it around "just in case".

    • Re:Netbook? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CdBee (742846) on Monday May 05, 2008 @06:04PM (#23305496)
      agred - I have usd an iPod touch and it's well adapted for the uses you state, but bear in mind that the expansible firefox browser on an EEE PC is much more suited for web apps and the more desktop-like OS makes for easier porting of favourite applications (fewer developer restrictions too)
  • by paxundae (1031998) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:35PM (#23305208)
    I'm all for the possibilities of low power and low cost laptops, and with more and more processing being shifted to web servers (or the cloud, whatever that is), I think the time is now.

    My problem is that I want a full sized screen. Checking email and going through pdf's, doc's, and spreadsheets, I find I do a lot better with a big screen (or two) than even a normal laptop screen.

    Do we think this is going to be taken care of by having docking stations all over the place, or will I need to wait for roll-out, flexible screens?

  • by melted (227442) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:50PM (#23305344) Homepage
    Some of the "inexpensive" laptops are $600! For a bit over that amount you can get a full blown laptop with larger screen and hard drive, higher resolution and more comfortable keyboard. What am I missing here?
  • by Kjella (173770) on Monday May 05, 2008 @06:02PM (#23305476) Homepage
    There's a similar offering for the desktop front, the "Nettop". Think really cheap, small fanless box you hook up with full size keyboard, mouse and screen. Intel is really throwing a volley at AMDs margins if they can ship these in volume on time.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday May 05, 2008 @06:19PM (#23305604) Homepage Journal
    I want a portable Internet terminal with a full-sized screen, full-sized keyboard, usable pointing device, wireless and wired networking, and sound. Optionally, I want a read/write device for data up/download and a printer. Another desirable feature is "quick reset" which will reset it to either 1) factory condition or 2) the last version I specifically marked as stable.

    I'm thinking a laptop with no HD, no CD, but a flash big enough to hold three copies of either DamnSmallLinux or ThinStation. Copy 1 would be read-only from the factory. Copy 3 would be the normal copy and would be a copy of copy 1 when the machine is first powered on. Copy 2 would be the "last known good" version, a copy of copy 3 made while booted to the BIOS setup screen.

    I'm thinking maybe 256MB of flash and another 256-512MB of ordinary RAM.

    The whole thing should be well under $300.

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