The most popular post on this blog for some time has been Using you Asus EEE PC on the 3 mobile network, which is no doubt a lot to do with it being linked to from 3 Mobile Buzz. I think it is safe to say that the two hottest gadgets this year have been the Asus EEE PC and the 3G dongle from 3, which put together make a whole new computing experience. Why? I think this may be a similar change to the introduction of mobile phones. It seems to me there is a direct comparison between the way we get onto the Internet and how we use phones. First we started with a hard wired connection, just like the phone, now many of us are on a WiFi connection, which is a bit like a cordless phone, in fact it has a similar range, you can stray a short distance from the location of your network, but if you go to somebody else's house, another workplace or away somewhere you are left with a chore of trying to get access to another network. There are WiFi systems now where you can "roam" between different hotspots, but in some ways that reminds me of the old Rabbit phones where you took the handset with you and had to find a base station to go stand near to make a call.
Now the mobile operators have been bringing out broadband dongles, devices which allow you to obtain access to the Internet through a 3G mobile connection. You could do this before through a mobile phone, but often the pricing made this an unattractive option, now these pricing structures are a bit more reasonable making it an option for a regular internet connection. So combine this with a the super-portability of the Asus EEE PC and you have a solution where you can use the web pretty much anywhere, and you carry the whole lot round with you (a friend of mine carries this combination round in her handbag). The interest in such a product must be there, otherwise nobody would read these articles, but many people might be put off by not being "offically supported" (the 3 dongle for example is only supported on Windows and partially on the Mac). What would be really great is if a mobile operator in the UK did what SFR did in France and brought out an EEE with integrated 3G functionality. The appeal of such a device could be quite strong, just being able to walk into a shop and get an easy to use connected 3G-enabled computer that "just works", no messing around with carting around cumbersome laptops, searching round for a WiFi point or trying to enter lots of settings to get onto differently configured networks. On the same highstreets you can now buy the EEE and 3G dongles, why not sell them preconfigured to work together from the same shop?
The big question now is whether any of the mobile networks will go and talk to Asus and make this happen. If they did it might usher in a whole new age of convenience in computing.
*** UPDATE 1st June 2008 ***
Finland has joined France in having such a bundle available: http://jkkmobile.blogspot.com/2008/05/asus-eee-pc-hits-finland-with-3g.html
If you know of a similar bundle in your country then please add it to the comments below.