Most readers not still in short pants will remember how Asus basically invented the netbook category in 2007 with the original $300 Eee PC, causing consternation in the process for other PC manufacturers, who saw their fat margins on notebooks threatened. Now Asus seems primed to revisit the concept, and revive the brand, with the announcement of its new $199 EeeBook X205 notebook … or netbook?
Of course, the home computing market has changed considerably since 2007, in ways that are immediately obvious from the new EeeBook’s design. Remember how heavily compromised the original Eee PC was in terms of hardware and software, with a tiny screen, only a base 4Gb of memory in the simplest versions, and a Linux-based OS. In contrast, the new EeeBook makes almost no compromise at all, with an 11.6 inch screen and a 32Gb flash drive packing Windows 8.1, and still manages to come in at less than $200.
Of course, the original Eee PC didn’t have sub-$60 tablets to compete against. It didn’t have Chromebooks, some of them already down there at the $200 price point. It didn’t have ultrabooks, the PC industry’s bling riposte to one key advantage of the original Eee PC design: portability. And it didn’t have a public used to consuming digital content and entertainment through mobile devices like the Kindle or even their smartphones, some of these running the same full Windows 8 OS.
Still, this is not to diss what in itself is probably a great piece of kit. The good news is that you can get a great Windows laptop for $199. The bad news, for some at least, is that it still prompts the question of why you would even want one.