Is ASUS in bed with Microsoft? The new XP-based EeePC 900 will actually be cheaper than the Linux-based version.
Asus will sell the Windows XP model of its Eee PC 900 for a substantially cheaper price than its Linux counterpart, raising questions about the company's long term commitment to the Linux marketplace.
At a Sydney launch event for the much-anticipated Eee PC 900 model, local product manager Albert Liang revealed that the XP model would sell for $599 in Australia, while the Linux model would be $649. To cover the licence cost associated with Windows XP Home and Microsoft Works — which replace a custom version of the Xandros Linux distribution and OpenOffice — the XP model has just 12GB of storage, while the Linux version has 20GB.
The machines, which sport a wider 8.9 inch screen and weigh in at just under a kilogram, will go on sale in Australia at the end of May. Adding to the impression that Linux is now the poor cousin, the XP version will be sold through "selected retailers" while the Linux machine will be available through "computer resellers". (Translation: No more Linux machines in Myer.)
The original Eee PC, launched in Australia in November last year, has been a major success, selling one million units worldwide. "It has generated a tremendous amount of noise into the market," Liang said.
While the presence of Linux clearly hasn't been a barrier to consumers buying the notebook to date, Asus appears keener to promote the presence of XP on the new range than to expand the Linux market. "Microsoft has been a longstanding supporter of Asus," Liang said.
"People are asking for the familiar and compatible Windows interface that they've used in the past," said Keith Holtham, the account manager for Asus at Microsoft Australia. "The goal was to provide a platform that allows users to have access to their favourite applications."
Holtham made much of the presence of Windows Live applications on the box, including Communicator, Photo Gallery and OneCare Family Safety. He then totally undermined the credibility of the latter by noting that his teenage children seemed able to find anything they wanted online regardless of such filtering software being present.
APC played briefly with the machines on show at the launch. The XP version of the Eee boots quite speedily for a Windows box, but is still notably slower than its Linux counterpart. Even Asus' press release promoting the product acknowledges that the Linux machine is faster to get started. "It provides a fast boot-up time, ideal for quick internet access while waiting for public transport or taking notes on-the-go," it breathlessly proclaims.
Apparently, "the Linux version is suited to users who desire an icon-driven and easy point-and-click interface – well suited for children or users with limited computer experience". We'll leave the reader to deduce what that implies about the XP interface.
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