I’ve been a fan of the Asus eee PC ultra micro laptop for sometime, and like many enthusiasts I’ve succumbed to the obnoxious habit of playing the part of an eee evangelist on occasion. I must admit I’m always a sucker for small cheap gadgets, especially miniature wi-fi laptops that cost around the range of a mid-priced cellphone. (I got mine for around PHP 17,000 around November 2007).
But the eee has proven to be a trusty daily companion and a respectable enough workhouse. I have another laptop at home, a full-sized Toshiba Satellite, and there are days when that device doesn’t see the light of day, since the eee monopolizes my attention. It’s replaced the book or magazine by the bedside, and the morning newspaper is a distant memory from a bygone era – I read aggregators like Google News and Google Reader over breakfast instead.
Even in the workplace, the eee is the machine I bring to meetings to take notes with. It’s during those meetings that I have to stop what I’m doing and do my usual eee demo from the moment I open the lid and power it up. The women all ooh and ahh about how cute and tiny it is, as I play the part of a computer salesman for a few moments, enumerating the features like a real smoothie. This is fun at first, but it tends to become an annoying routine after awhile.
So I’m glad that there are moves afoot to make this machine a little more mainstream. This way, it becomes less of a novelty, and people would leave me alone so I can actually get some work done.
It just so happens that the country’s two leading telcos have discovered the Asus eee at the same time, and have taken to giving it away as a low cost laptop, or as an alternative gadget to the usual iPods and 3G phones.
SMART now offers the Asus eee as a giveaway (in lieu of a phone) with its SMART Gold postpaid subscriptions. The 2GB version of the eee is offered free with a Smart Gold Plan 1800. As an alternative, the eee is included as a bundle with a mobile phone with Plan 2500.
Photo: The Smart Gold ad as it appeared in the newspapers, complete with scanned appropriately crumpled newsprint.
Globe isn’t far behind. The Asus eee 2G Surf is featured as the prime player of the “Globe Broadband Sulit Computer Bundle” consisting of an Asus eee, landline, and Internet connection.
Bundling low-cost computers with Internet connections makes perfect sense for ISPs. The number one obstacle to getting an Internet connection in a low-to-mid income Philippine household actually isn’t the cost of the hookup. It’s actually the lack of a home PC. Providing PCs to families that had none is increasingly seen as a way to grow the home Internet market.
It’s true that there have been low-cost PC bundles before. But none with the inherent cuteness of an Asus eee.
There are some gaps in the bundles that need to be addressed, however. For one, the Asus eee runs Xandros Linux, with a bunch of built-in applications that are fine for beginners, but more advanced users will try to install new applications – only to run into a learning curve when Linux installs don’t turn out to be as familiar as running Windows apps.
Secondly, the Globe Internet bundle doesn’t address the most attractive aspect of the eee: mobility. You’re not likely to want to remain tethered to an ethernet cable for long with this small a laptop. This device begs for wi-fi. The first order of business is to get yourself a Wi-Fi router so you can take the eee out to the garden – or the crapper.