SubNotebook Gladiators (Part 1)

Tonight, on this website … two not-so-giants of the computing world meet to do battle …
Well, they won’t do battle … but they will be compared. And pictures will be taken …

No, not those kinds of pictures (pervert) … it’s just my comparison of the Asus EeePC and the OLPC.

First, a little history …

I’ve been working with notebook computers since long before my days as a BIOS engineer. My dad owned several for business, including ones I repaired and patched with duct tape for use in college. I own one for video editing, and have travelled the world with more than one variety slung over my shoulder. I have actually refurbished and used a Tandy 102, even if only on a limited basis.

For some reason, the one the I have the strangest attachment to is this little Asus EeePC. It’s underpowered by today’s standards … sub-gigahertz CPU speed, 4GB internal storage, built mostly from components on the list to be discontinued by Intel. But a usable computer costing under $400 that (literally) fits in my pocket is compelling.

And, to be honest in a very heterosexual way … kinda cute.

I started watching the “tiny and cheap” computer market when the “One Laptop Per Child” (OLPC) project was announced in 2005. As it developed, it was obvious that the $100 notebook computer wasn’t going to be done quickly, and probably not be anywhere to $100. It’s a noble project, but the little libertarian in me thought that some company would be able to create a similar product in less time and with better results.

Then the Asus EeePC was announced at COMPUTEX 2007 in Taipei. By then the OLPC project was asking folks to pay $400 for two units … one for delivery to the 3rd world, one for the “donor” (assuming they ever get shipped). Even with price changes and minor tweaks to the spec, Asus was going to deliver a faster and more capable notebook to the market for $300-500 per unit (depending on model).

Suddenly the computer market got turned on its head. Everex announced their Cloudbook would be in Wal-Mart in January 2008 (now February 2008). Intel started work on a “Basic Notebook” platform, just announced in the press, as a platform form similar sub-notebooks. For consumers with a desktop PC, it’s a great supplement. For consumers who only need a platform for writing, web surfing and e-mail it’s a cheap way to go mobile.

So that brings us to now. My company purchased an Asus EeePC for me to use as a demo (our software is on the motherboard) and my good friend Rachel bought an OLPC (the “give a little, get a little” model appeals to her charitable nature).  I took this opportunity to geek out over the two systems and compare them side-by-side.

Part Two – the actual comparison – stay tuned

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