“Netbooks”

msiwind.jpgSo I’ve been keeping tabs on the whole OLPC/Eee bit for a while now. Looks like the Eee 701 already has a few hardware revisions and that whole “market segment” is maturing nicely.  The original complaints were that 7″ was too small, keyboard was too small. Now the Eee has a 9″ model (901), but it still has the intel A100/A110 processor in it, which is basically a warmed-over Pentium M celeron.

Coming up in the next two months will be the release of the first couple Atom based “netbooks”. The Eee is expected to be released with an Atom processor by September at the latest to catch the back to school market. The hottest upcoming netbook is the MSI Wind, which looks like someone did a design study of the Macbook and Eee and made something in-between. 9″ (8.9″) screen, LED backlight, Macbook-like hinge (more durable, better viewing angle in the lap), and wider (adult) keyboard = Eee killer. It also runs about $580-650. About double the price of the low end Eee 7″, which is $300, but the display alone is worth the extra cost.

I am highly amused by the class of computers designed to run XP that are just now emerging, as Microsoft struggles to kil their Frankenstein XP in favor of Vista. They also run Linux, but it looks like XP models are moving pretty quickly these days as well. These computers don’t have the horsepower to run Vista properly, but the next generation, Atom-equipped laptops should be able to – barely.

They always say the next greatest thing is just around the corner, and you can always wait for more and better options, and that’s true. In the low end market there’s not a whole lot you need: be able to run Firefox, 1024x wide display, and wifi. The 7″ model have really cramped screens for running things like Firefox, but the 9″ does have the required 1024x wide display. Here’s why I’m waiting for September: Atom. Intel’s Atom processors are supposed to be fully AMD64 compatible, essentially future-proofing you for the next four years (the realistic lifespan of a laptop). That’s pretty exciting to me. I’ll probably buy one, even at the $600 price point.

SSDDs are falling in price, and these computers are shaping up to be really nice contenders for a personal computer. Sure all your backups and main MP3 collection will be on your desktop, but you can take this new class of computers out on the porch and check the weather, your email, or keep up with IMs, etc. Journalists like to bitch about smaller size keyboards, but face it, this article is the longest thing I will write all month. 99% of what I write is emails less than 5 sentences long, and one line IMs that could probably be twitter posts. Smaller size keyboards are OK as long as I can still use the arrow keys, pg up and pg down + space bar, I’m good to go.

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