One of the most exciting movements in technology is the boom of cheap, efficient, small and robust laptops that are forcing a sea change in the market, bringing better products to more people. We are being offered computers that are more affordable than ever and this is sending waves through the industry as the ultra-portable goes from niche device to a mainstay of professionals, students, and families.
Since March of this year my main computer has been a tiny Asus EeePC, a computer that is as close to my ideal laptop as I’ve yet encountered. It is genuinely portable in a way that is startling in comparison with the bulky conventional laptops I’ve had in the past. Even better is the fact that it is capable of doing everything I use a computer for, from internet surfing to video and music management, at least as well as the larger computers I have used. The small package has left me wanting little more in my daily work and play. At $350 before tax, it was the best investment in technology I’ve ever made.
Asus has taken the market by storm, selling millions from their EeePC line and generating a slew of imitations from Dell, HP and other manufacturers. A surprisingly broad range of people have picked up on the trend, putting pressure on the big players in the industry to deliver options that best suit our needs. I personally know of a businessman who runs his small business with an EeePC and similar stories are popping up every day. The buzz generated by the laptop always surprises me; everyone I show my EeePC to and share the price with are excited by the prospect of an affordable and capable laptop.
We are already reaping tangible benefits from the ultra-portable trend, but this is just the beginning of the escalated push for cheaper, smaller and better computers. Apple, known for expensive hardware, is rumoured to be considering lowering their MacBook line below $1000 USD. Asus is promising EeePC battery life that will last “a whole day“. The Indian government is, astonishingly, planning to create $10 laptops, according to recent reports, for use in higher education settings. The market-driven push by companies like Asus, non-profit initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child and governments like India’s, are creating a perfect storm to deliver computers (and the internet) to a much larger percentage of the global population.
5 Key Advantages Common in the Ultra-Portable Space:
- 1. Size
Laptops that easily fit into a purse or pocket are clearly more portable than laptops that demand their own bags.
- 2. Durability
Laptops like the EeePC are made to endure the stress of real use. Solid state hard drives keep data safer through drops, bumps and crashes, and the casing of these computers tend to be rugged.
- 3. Cost
As wealthy as we are in developed nations, there are still many of us who can not afford a laptop capable of delivering a quality experience, and those numbers rise when we consider other nations or if we enter a recession. Putting good technology into as many hands as possible is important in growing a global culture that embraces the many benefits technology can bring to our lives.
- 4. Ease of Use
Ultra-portables tend to have simple, robust and capable interfaces that are very easy for people who aren’t computer-savvy to pick up and are refreshing for many advanced users (who can easily activate more complicated interfaces). We should want the elderly, children and others who may not have learned to interact with more complicated interfaces to still have the benefits of technology, and ultra-portables are one good avenue to introduce programs that can change lives for the better.
- 5. Linux
Some ultra-portables are bloated with a Windows operating system, but most are offered with a flavour of Linux. Linux is a free family of operating systems that tend to be faster, more robust and safer than proprietary operating systems like Windows and Mac OS X. The open source movement provides a rich and responsive collection of software that, for the most part, is better than what is offered for proprietary operating systems and usually entirely free. Linux helps to make computers cheaper by cutting out hundreds of dollars needlessly spent to buy operating systems while providing a better experience for computer users of all skill levels.