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Lenovo S10 Netbook: Fabulous Hardware, Yuck Software
The Overdue Birth of Netbooks
March 10, 2009
Hardware vendors have been missing the netbook boat ever since I can remember-- there has been demand for a small, portable, inexpensive, fast-booting computer ever since the World Wide Web became popular. You oldtimers might recall when that happened, way back in the last millennium around 1995 or so, when AOL disks rained down upon us from the heavens. For all I know, grizzled old Unix geekbeards nurtured a pent-up longing for netbooks as well. Netbooks, if they had existed, would have been perfect for the geekbeard Internet: plain text over slow dialup connections doesn't need much computing power or high-tech displays. Monochrome LCD displays have been with us since the early 80s, and color in the late 80s, so I wonder if, in a truly innovative and competitive computing marketplace, we could have had netbooks and other portable computing devices way back when.
And The Bandwagon Lumbers Into GearBut, as the saying goes, it's no use crying over spilled milk. Just lick it up and move on. The OLPC paved the way; it was intended to be an educational tool for children, but adults everywhere were enchanted and wanted one for themselves. This even made an impression on the inert titans of tech, who ponderously diverted from their doomed path of Jabba's Law, which is "Bigger! More Lard! More Crapware! *Belch*", and were sufficiently alarmed to waddle into action. In typical robber-baron fashion, both Intel and Microsoft crashed the OLPC party and tried to co-opt it. So Microsoft is trying to shoehorn Windows XP onto the OLPC, and Intel is trying to steal OLPC's customers for their Classmate PC.
I should note that in desktop PCs, laptops, and servers, we get an amazing amount of bang for our hardware buck. Five hundred US dollars buys a desktop system that not too long ago would have been an expensive, high-end server. And thanks to Linux and Free/Open/NetBSD we can actually run nice sleek efficient software that doesn't require all that horsepower just to get out of its own way.
Eee PC Astounds the WorldMeanwhile, back at the real innovation ranch, ASUS was quietly going about its business inventing the Eee PC (easy to learn, easy to work, easy to play). The first Eee PC hit the shelves in fall 2007 and was an instant hit. Configuration varied by country, and depending where you were on the planet at any particular moment you could find it in white or black, with varying sizes of solid-state drives, with Linux or Windows XP, with a modest CPU, small RAM, and built-in wired and wireless network interfaces. Their initial target retail price in the US was $199, but it ended up costing from around $245 to $399 depending on configuration, and ASUS sold skillions.
The Eee PC is very Linux-hackable, so there are many specialized netbook Linux distributions that run well on it, and it supports stock distros as well. The gang at ZaReason, my personal favorite Linux OEM vendor, think highly of the Eee PC and sell boatloads of them.