Asus eeePC

Okay, so any excuse to bring out the Laphroaig is fine by me, but the cute little eeePC is better than most. That it’s cute and popular is all very well, but what really makes my day is this is the first device I’ve seen that both doesn’t hide the fact it’s running Linux, and is available in maintstream stores in Australia. A random review from the Sydney Morning Herald:

You also don’t get Windows. Asus has adopted the free Linux operating system that’s been slowly yet steadily growing in popularity over the past decade. This keeps the cost down and makes better use of its relatively modest hardware, which would creak under the weight of Windows. It does mean not being able to use your favourite Windows software but, fortunately, the Eee PC comes with dozens of programs, including the familiar Firefox web browser and Skype for online phone calls.

That came out on the day the eeePC was released in Australia. Three days later, they did a followup:

Taiwan computer maker Asus might have underestimated the local demand for its diminutive Eee PC, as the $499 laptop is now virtually sold out in Australia.

From that, there’s a brief take on who’s actually buying them:

“We’ve had customers coming in buying two or three units for the family – the mix of customer has been probably novices more than the tech types,” he said.

It’s really good to see that Linux is getting credit in pretty much all those stories, no matter how mainstream. Xandros is pretty rarely mentioned, and I don’t think I’ve seen Debian mentioned yet. But even without the credit, it’s still pretty cool that with the eeePC and Dell’s trysting with Ubuntu, the real in-roads to pre-installed consumer Linux these days are building on Debian. I’d always expected that Red Hat or SuSE or someone with more commercial muscle would get through that door first (they’ve certainly had box sets more readily available!), but apparently elitist, freedom obsessed, techno-geekery actually works better, somehow. At least when there’s a company to put a smiley face in front of it all :)

The other interesting thing about choosing Xandros, is that it presumably means the eeePC is covered by Microsoft’s patent protection scheme — which means no baseless threats against eeePC users from Microsoft, but also that Microsoft’s probably getting a cut of whatever Xandros receives from each eeePC sale. Whether you think that’s a problem or not, the result is probably going to be that it’s the thin edge of the wedge: it’s removed Microsoft from blocking a Linux preinstall on consumer hardware, which means we can see that regular people like Linux systems enough that they sell out in days. And that means Linux systems are a fact of life, and if Microsoft try to stop them by making it difficult for you to sell Windows systems, well, that’ll just make it difficult to sell Windows systems — which is another win for Linux. And once you get to the point where the argument for paying off Microsoft doesn’t rely on keeping your OEM deal for Windows, but is just a matter of whether their patents are actually valid…

Oh, also nice from the promoting free software angle, is that the first thing you see if you decide to visit Asus’s eeePC site to check the gizmo is the news item:

2007.11.27 ASUSTek is committed to meet the requirements of the GNU General…

Add the fact that an eeePC running a Debian-derivative has access to all the software in the Debian repositories for no cost, and the new government’s planned rebates and investments in IT probably mean that parents can get close to a full refund, and you’re getting pretty close to a choice of spending nothing and getting a popular, reasonably functional and very portable laptop with all the software you could ever want, that just happens to be running Linux, or paying an extra few hundred or thousand dollars to get a Windows laptop, and then probably pirating whatever software you end up needing.

In any event, to my mind, that makes 2007 the year of the Linux on the desktop: everything from here is just a simple matter of quantity. What’s next?

One Comment

  1. […] of X, while at the same time gaining some quite interesting benefits. (And since I’ve already nominated 2007 as the year of the Linux desktop, I’ve got no reason to worry about discarding current technology as obsolete […]

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