Cogito, ergo sum... (I think, therefore I am)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Me and my EEE

My fascination with small gadgets that pack a punch began with the Nokia 6600. That was the time I realized that it was technologically possible to package immense functionality into a tiny package. From the Nokia 6600, I switched to the iMate PDA2k, in search of a solution that would fulfill my needs. However, even the Windows Mobile path fell short of what I was looking for, and I gradually realized that I needed a complete computer, not a stripped down OS, but in a much smaller form factor. I realized this need of mine long before I had heard of Microsoft’s Origami project. When Origami was announced, I looked on with interest. I drooled on the TabletKiosk Eos’ and a hands on with the Samsung Q1 left me hankering for some UMPC action. The only thing stopping me was the price, which was more than US$ 1000 for any such device.

The second generation of UMPCss’ held much more allure for me, because I prefer a real keyboard to inking (never having had too much experience on it). The real gem to come out of the UMPC bandwagon was the Fujitsu U810 (U1010) and I made up my mind to buy it, and so began saving up.

During a vacation to Malaysia in November 2007, I came upon a shop in Kuala Lumpur (MTCS in The Pavilion, Bukit Bintang) where the sales rep showed me the U810. It was the first time I had handled the machine, and I was impressed. I spent almost half an hour fondling it. The rep told me that it was for US$ 1200, and that he had another small machine from Asus that was cheaper. I thought it was the R2H, but when he showed it to me, I immediately realized it was the EEE.

Until that time, I had not much been interested in the EEE. My logic was thus: ultraportables cost more than US$ 1000 for a reason. The reason is that smaller parts cost more, and to have a good ultraportable, you need to spend more money. How can something cost US$ 400 and still be considered worthwhile. Surely there was some fatal flaw or some hidden disadvantage which I would discover later on. However, the salesman was convincing enough that I was left thinking. He told me to think over whether I wanted to buy the U810 or the EEE and come back tomorrow.

That night, after my wife went to sleep early, I went out with my 15 inch Fujitsu Siemens V3405 laptop to search for an open wifi connection to do some research on the EEE. I read the initial reviews, and surmised that it wasn’t such a bad deal for US$ 400. After a couple of hours of googling, I had made up my mind. The EEE would be mine.

Next day I arrived at the store, but there was no EEE to be found! They had all been sold out yesterday, and the next shipment was expected in a couple of weeks. I raised a hue and cry, and finally they managed to get one from their warehouse.

Little did I know, this would be the start of a love affair,

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why is the Asus EEE PC so special?

The EEE, when it was announced, offered a killer combination of portability and functionality in a tiny package. True, there were more powerful ultraportables before it. I agree there were smaller ultraportables than the EEE. But where the EEE had an (immense) edge was price. No one had imagined that it was possible to produce a functional ultraportable at this price. Initially announced to be US$ 200, it ended up costing US$ 400. And even at that price, it offered more bang for the buck than any other machine.

Pretty soon after its introduction, masses of people bought it. An active community took form. People were amazed at what this little wonder could do. Some bold folks went as far as modding their EEEs, adding internal Bluetooth, flash storage, GPS, keyboard lights, draft-N wireless and what not. I doubt there was any other ultraportable in history which received as much attention as the EEE. The main reason was portability at such a low price.

Seeing the success Asus had with the EEE, other companies started jumping on the bandwagon. First and foremost among the big names was HP, with their Mininote. I have yet to see one in person, but from the reviews I gather it is a looker. Dell is rumored to have something in the works also. Acer is also jumping into this space.

EEE Lover!

I must be one of the few people who have bought Asus EEE PCs'. I currently possess the following:
Asus EEE PC 701 4G White (with nlited Windows XP SP2)
Asus EEE PC 900 20G White (with original Xandros OS)
Asus EEE PC 900 20G Black (with nlited Windows XP SP2)

In the next few posts I will write about many aspects of why it ended up this way.