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.