The Asus EEE is without doubt an excellent machine, it may also hold some wider lessons for the future. It is lightweight, a convenient size (about the size of a book), lightweight (about 900g) and extremely versatile (see my previous posts). It feels very solid and would be perfect for someone who might have to travel a lot or attend a lot of meetings.
Working on the machine for a long period of time could prove a little uncomfortable, but you can easy hook it up to a standard PC monitor and keyboard for extended use. Practically everybody who saw it really liked it, and many of them said they would really like to own one. The price tag of around £220 puts it into traditional PDA territory, but this device can do so much more
The most interesting point about the machine for me was the scalability of the user experience, by this I mean that it can meet the demands of someone who has only basic computer skills, but can scale up to more demanding users. You don't have to coach anybody in how to use the machine, thanks to the fantastic interface which can switch between easy and traditional desktop modes, everybody can work with the machine straight away. This includes people used to MS Windows(tm) machines. It was very interesting watching people use a Linux machine with OpenOffice for the first time, nobody struggled, people could get on and use the machine straight away. I'm not going to be popular for saying this, but I think it is a lot easier to use than an Apple Mac(tm), particularly as it has two mouse buttons.
The EEE manages to be simple to use without dumbing down, you can still use a shell, you can install standard desk top software. You don't have to use cut down "mobile" versions of programs, there is no syncing with "desktop" PCs. Unlike a lot of PDA type devices I have used in the past I found it difficult to reach the limits of the machine.
The reason for this is not just good hardware design, but also the use of Linux. This is a very important key component in this machine, Linux scales well, you can run it on a set top box in your living room and then on everything up to a supercomputer. In a recent interview with Information Week, Linus Torvalds the founder of Linux said "regardless of where you want to put it, not only
has somebody else probably looked at something related before but you
don't have to go through license hassles to get permission to do a
pilot project". Linux can be seen in action in the One Laptop Per Child project too. Proprietary operating systems struggle to cope with this sort of hardware. Linux in the desktop is nothing to be afraid of, it very usable and is getting better all the time, projects such as Kubuntu and Ubuntu deliver people a real choice in their computing experience. Having choices is sometimes criticised, but choice is a good thing that can lead you to an operating system and software set that is most suited to you and your computer. If you don't want to make choices then accept the defaults, you can always change your mind later.
This is how computing should be, easy to use but without artificial constraints. For me the machine proves that Linux is ready for the desktop and ready for the masses.