Asus's Eee Has It All Over Wal-Mart's Linux PC - InformationWeek

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11/2/2007
01:38 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Asus's Eee Has It All Over Wal-Mart's Linux PC

And so now two new PCs running Linux out of the box have hit the shelves this week: Asus's $399 Eee Flash-storage mini-notebook and Everex's $198 TC2502 gPC, courtesy of Wal-Mart.  Yes, they both run Linux, but the similarities end there -- and my money's on the Eee being the real success story of the t

And so now two new PCs running Linux out of the box have hit the shelves this week: Asus's $399 Eee Flash-storage mini-notebook and Everex's $198 TC2502 gPC, courtesy of Wal-Mart.  Yes, they both run Linux, but the similarities end there -- and my money's on the Eee being the real success story of the two.

For one, the Eee looks like it may be the first really successful product (in terms of both sales and execution) in its niche: low-consumption, low-cost notebooks that offer substantially more than a PDA without also being that much pricier.  It comes loaded with some fairly classy and genuinely useful features: Wi-Fi, a small camera, a cache of useful preloaded open-source software, and USB connectivity. 

The exact feature mix varies between models of the machine, but even the "low-end" Eee, which is available for $299, is a nice piece of work.  And if you go by what ASUS claims, they're practically sprouting wings and flying off the shelves by themselves.

So what about the gPC?  From what I can tell it's mostly getting attention because a) it's cheap, b) it runs the Ubuntu-derived gOS, and c) Wal-Mart is selling it -- not because it's actually breaking any useful ground.  Its $199 price tag gives you 512MB of RAM (same as the Eee, actually) speakers, 80GB of hard drive space, DVD drive (something the Eee admittedly does not have but hardly required) -- but no display.

The lack of a monitor instantly makes the gPC that much less useful to its intended market in the first place.  If you're working on a $199 budget to begin with, you're either going to have to shell out at least another $100 for a monitor of some kind, or (if you're dead lucky) pick one up from your local PC guru who's finally getting rid of his old Trinitron tube display and replacing it with a flat-panel.  And if you're going to end up spending $299 or more for the whole package, why not just get the Eee anyway, which gives you portability and wireless access, and a display?

I suspect a lot of my dismay about the gPC revolves around who the intended market is.  If tech-savvy folks who already have a spare display lying around want to pick it up as a starter PC for the kids, that's not a bad idea.  And even there, the Eee seems that much slicker and more useful a machine all around.

That's it, really: the Eee is just more -- well, buzzworthy, to use a term I normally hate.  I was more genuinely excited about the Eee than I was about the iPhone, and that I trace simply to Apple being Apple and Asus being ... well, Asus.  They're not exactly a household name compared to Apple -- but if the Eee takes flight like I hope it will, they might well be.  Everex is also talking about offering devices similar to the Eee sometime in the first half of next year, but by that time Asus may have already eaten their lunch.  And walked off with their dates.

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