It all started when Nicholas Negroponte announced his grand plan to produce millions of laptops for $100 a pop. Now the ultra-cheap laptop concept is being pursued by industry heavyweights including chipmakers Intel and AMD and notebook manufacturers Quanta and Asustek. Everybody wants to be a part of this new product category, and if you believe the hype, it's about to take over the world. So, are you ready to buy a slimmed-down system for less than £125?
Asustek boss Jonney Shih claims cheap devices such as the £125 Eee PC that went on sale in Taiwan yesterday will account for 20 percent of the notebook market by 2010, while Negroponte hopes to put 100 million XO laptops in the hands of schoolchildren in emerging economies over the next few years.
But the headline of this post is slightly misleading - these devices are not laptops, they're not even laptop-killers. They have various uses, but the lack of power and the 7in screens mean they won't be used for the high-end tasks you use your current PC or laptop for.
But scaled-down devices that perform less processor-intensive functions – browsing the web and sending emails, for example – seem to be the flavour of the month. The question is, if these tasks are your main motivation for buying a new gadget, would you rather use a £199 iPod touch, a £179 PocketSurfer2 or a £125 mini-laptop with a full keyboard?
Although the cheapest Eee PC is on sale for £125 in Taiwan, it's likely to cost more in the UK – the RM Asus minibook announced last week for students and scheduled to go on sale here later this year is expected to cost £169, for example. But many technology fans will still regard this as cheap enough to buy on a whim.
The Asus devices run on Linux and have a minimal amount of RAM (512MB) and storage (2GB), but what more do you need for a portable companion? Such devices aren't going to trouble the traditional laptop, but could they be the next big thing for computer enthusiasts to carry around everywhere?
Let us know your thoughts in this related PC Advisor forum thread.