Coming soon! My very own mobile information device

Out of stock already due to the holidays, the eeePC by ASUS has apparently been flying off the shelves at the local Challenger superstore in Singapore. As the sales assistant walked me to the customer service counter where I could make a deposit against my machine – to be delivered only on the 26th, such is the rush – he told me some anecdotal tales of the sales they’ve seen this week. Twenty machines came in, he said, on Wednesday but a man walked in and asked for 7 of them, gift wrapped. At SGD 598 = USD 410 = Euro 290, odd, these little beauties have been hard to keep in stock.

Mine will be black. Or Galaxy Black to give its exact name. While I’ll gush about it with pictures of my own once I have it here at home, I wanted to take a moment to capture my first impressions of what is intended to be a low cost, entry level, easy to use and very affordable mobile information device. Its referred to as a subnotebook but that seems to imply its abnormal in some way. I think this product is the first in an entirely new category between a smartphone and a laptop.  It’s about the size of a slimmer hardback and weighs under a kilogramme.

I wanted something to pop into my purse when traveling. My alternate product under consideration was a Nokia smartphone with a Qwerty keyboard – the e65i or even the e90 Communicator. I have an ACER travelmate that’s small and light, its a full function laptop but has been showing some hardware issues of late that need to be repaired. I can’t rely on it for my next trip but neither did I want to invest in another laptop. So I thought of a smartphone since my current handset is a basic voice and sms box. But when I heard that the eeePC’s were available for sale and at a pricepoint cheaper than the Nokia’s, I thought why not go check it out.

After all, what are the functions that are most likely to be needed when traveling? You basically need something to check email on, browse the internet a bit, post on your blog, upload a photograph on flickr and maybe use a word processor or make some slides for a presentation.

Testing the eeePC at the store was an eye opening experience! I was impressed. I’ve never used Linux before and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to open documents or know how to navigate this OS. But the “Easy to use” in ASUS’ marketing matches reality – they’ve given icons that take you straight to Skype, to Google Docs, gmail, yahoo or aol – no need to figure out the URLs if you’re a beginner – and also basic word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. That decided it for me, it held the functionality in the field, even if the keyboard is a bit small for a touch typist like myself. I figured I’ll just buy a flexible keyboard for SGD $15 and tuck that into my purse as well.

As for the phone? Well, if this little device can do all of the above, all I’ll really need to is take calls and send text messages. So even a minor upgrade to the free Nokia that came with this year’s home broadband signup scheme will do. The downside is that I won’t be able to check email if there’s no Wifi where I’m at, something that a smart phone would probably allow me to do. I won’t be “always on”. That’s the tradeoff in this purchase decision. Lets see what happens after a test drive through the developing world!

My own 2008 prediction is that this just might be the real bestseller in worldwide sales. Its far too versatile for its pricepoint – almost the same  price as Amazon’s Kindle, as a matter of fact and I believe, the IPhone.

Quoting from an article mentioned in my earlier post on this machine,

“The Eee PC is our answer to where the next one billion users of personal computers are going to come from,” Shih commented. “We want to enable more users around the world – housewives, the elderly and children. We believe there is a great potential in emerging markets…”

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