Until recently, the words "inexpensive" and "ultraportable" had never been introduced to one another. Never even occupied the same paragraph, much less the same sentence. These days, the two are cavorting shamelessly all over the Internet. And they're getting lots of attention.
I'm talking about the 'One Laptop Per Child' XO laptop, which is being sold to U.S. and Canadian consumers only until Nov. 26. For $400, you get one of these green & white laptops, and another is sent to a child in a developing country. The Linux-based laptop offers some impressive technology considering its price point. And it's earned raves from The New York Times, Laptop magazine, and others.
I'm also talking about the Asus Eee PC. It's $400 and also Linux-based, but without the XO's noble intentions. The lightweight (2 pounds) Asus Eee is earning mostly good reviews from CNET and others for offering a full set of laptop features at a bargain price. It's already got its own unofficial blog, eeeuser.com. (See the video demonstration of the Eee PC, below).
Power users will find much to dismiss with these lightweights, of course. And they don't run Windows, though an Eee model due next month reportedly will. That said, it's heartening to see truly ultraportable laptops becoming available at reasonable prices.
In any event, I'd willingly pay $400 for a rugged, lightweight laptop that's:
> Comfortable to type on (the XO and Eee have cramped keyboards);
> Has a screen that can be read in bright sunlight, so I can take my work outdoors on a beautiful day;
> Runs for at least five hours on a charge and can be quickly recharged;
> Has the necessary software for easy e-mail, full Web browsing, and word processing.
Based on the reviews I've read, the XO laptop comes the closest to meeting all those criteria. But reviewers all say the XO keyboard is meant for a child's fingers, not an adult's.
And so, I'll bide my time. Or, at the last possible minute, I'll place my order for the XO laptop. Which is, come to think of it, a perfectly childish thing to do.