Enthusiastic Aussie response for the tiny Eee PC laptop now has Asus looking to a retail launch in time for a pre-Christmas debut.
When apcmag.com first reported on Asus' oddly-named Eee PC, readers proved eager to get their paws on this pint-sized portable - despite that its target was primary school students from grades three to five, who can use the device to learn basic computer skills but don't need full PC functionality.
|Handy size: with its 7 inch screen, the Eee PC slots neatly between a PDA/UMPC and sub-notebook
With a 7 inch screen (albeit an odd 800 x 480 resolution), a footprint just two-thirds the size of a A4 sheet of paper (22.5cm x 16.5cm, if you want to get our your ruler), a slim profile (tapering from 2.1cm to 3.5cm, front to rear) and a bare 890g weight, right off the bat it was clear that the outrageously portable Eee PC could fill the gap between tiny PDAs and conventional laptops.
At the time, we also noted that "enthusiasts will also no doubt find ways to turn the Eee PC into dedicated Torrentputers with the addition of external USB 2.0 hard drives", as well as "an ideal set-top box with its lid closed" and the Linux build of the XBox Media Centre installed. However, Asus advised that Eee PC would not be distributed via retail channels, but only via the tenders for bulk orders.
Now Asus has signalled that Eeenthusiasts may yet be able to add the open source sub-note to their gadget haul.
"Since its introduction in June 2007 at Computex Taipei, the Eee PC has generated excitement, incredible media noise as well as enthusiastic public interest" the company has announced. "Initially the Eee PC, aimed at the education market, was to be available only via special tender, however due to the enormous demand ASUS is now considering extending to retail and are in the process of selecting its partner/s of choice."
While Asus has four variants of the Eee PC, the model we'll see towards the end of December with its $499 price tag is the 4G (aka Eee PC 701).
Inside its white clamshell sits standard PC technology starting with an Intel 900MHz Dothan-class Pentium M processor, 512MB of RAM, 802.11g wireless plus 10/100 Ethernet, three USB ports, a multi-format memory card reader and a 4GB solid state hard drive.
|Linux for the littl'uns: the 'Easy Mode' UI sports a tabbed interface for beginners, but there's also a conventional XP-style desktop UI for more experienced hands
The OS is believed to be Xandros-based variant running KDE, but with two user interfaces: a tab-based ‘Easy Mode' for beginners, and a more conventional Windows XP-like desktop. Pre-loaded software includes Open Office, Firefox, Skype and dedicated links to Google Docs and Wikipedia.
However, Asus' quoted battery life appears leaner than you'd expect from a parsimonious portable: even with the solid state drive, low-voltage Pentium M chip and a lean Linux build, the manufacturer lists a mere 3.5 hours from the 5200 mAh battery.
This figure is expected to markedly improve next year, when a mid-2008 refresh will see Asus drop in a 65n Merom-class chip to reduce power consumption by almost a third (this in turn will allow them to remove the tiny cooling fan required by the 90nm Dothan processor, thus further extending battery life).