Ultra Low Price Laptops, where is it all going?

Just as I started thinking about buying an Asus EEE PC, a company called Elonex have recently released a £99 laptop aimed at education users. Just like the first Asus EEE PCs they run on a cut down version of Linux. The standard model of these PCs have a 7″ screen, 1GB of onboard storage, usb port, network port and even wirelesss internet. The installed softare packages include word processing, spreadsheet, pdf viewer, mp3 player and even 11 games. There’s an upgraded version of this laptop that costs £119, this version comes with 2GB of onboard storage and bluetooth ! The full overview of the PCs can be found here.
elonex-one-ice-white.jpg

So where is all this going?

With the aim of giving one laptop to every child I’m sure that in the future we will see the price of this kind of laptop fall well below £100. What I do find really interesting is not just the price of this type of laptop, it’s that these laptops are running Linux. These laptops seem to be setting a trend for Linux based OS and applications. Does this mean that if the one laptop per chld inititative takes off in the UK that children will be more familiar with Linux than with Windows? In the not too distant future is Linux going to become more popular on desktops in school classrooms, further/higher education and eventually offices ? That’s not really Microsoft bashing or even just a geeky day dream, if every child gets a Linux based PC then they will already be familiar with Linux which will be the norm to them. It’s not only laptops and PCs that are using Linux as an OS, mobile phones based on Google’s Android will be running a version of Linux too. Is the future looking like Linux will take a bigger share of the OS market, or is it only a matter of time before we see sub-£100 Windows based laptops? Given the hard drive, memory and software licensing requirements of most of the flavours of Windows and Microsoft applications, is it even possbile to create a sub-£100 Windows laptop?

Elonex won’t be shipping these laptops until June 2008, but they are taking a deposit of £10 that will ensure one is reserved for you when they do start shipping. I’ve just put a deposit down on the upgraded version, I’ll blog something when it arrives.

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13 Responses to Ultra Low Price Laptops, where is it all going?

  1. Chris Hickey says:

    The uptake of Windows is the key to Microsofts success. So why can’t Linux do the same? The ultra low priced laptop market will be a popular place to be as a reseller or manufacturer. It is evident that Linux offers the most cost efective option. But the fact that these laptops have Linux and not the Windows OS that everyone is already used to might work against them. Brand loyalty, and with the amount of consumers who are still afraid of the computer, will they opt for the Linux option? It’s all down to who they are targetting…

    It is more likeley to be successful if the one laptop per child innitiatives do take off. As the early adoption of Linux could prove to be the key…

  2. Mohammed says:

    I’ve been looking at the ASUS EEEPC and most suppliers are out of stock – and those that have them in stock are increasing their prices, and charging a premium.

    They are selling fast, talking to a supplier they cannot meet the demand from schools, who are wanting 30+ at a time.

    For those looking for a EEE Pc here is site that provides current availability levels and prices http://eeestock.cpjackson.co.uk/

  3. Hi Chris, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment !

    Brand Loyalty and resistance to change from existing users of MS Windows is an interesting point. It’s also worth noting that part of the sucess of Windows has been because it started to come pre-installed on nearly all PCs and laptops. New users just had to get on with it. If you’ve never owned a computer before it doesn’t matter which OS is installed, you get the manual (or not!) and figure it out as you go along. If everyone around you has exactly the same hardware and software things suddenly get a lot easier.

    If this type of Linux PCs are put into secondary or even junior schools it might very well be the students first experience of their own laptop. The students’ schools would have to accept and adapt to Linux, trainee teachers would have to be able to use the same laptops so they would need support from their HE Institution etc etc. Linux would start to spread in much the same ways as Windows did.

    If Microsoft don’t come up with an equivalent sub-£100 offering then they might risk losing out to Linux. Although with Microsoft claiming patent rights of some parts of Linux they might not lost out after all.

  4. Mark Wilcock says:

    Can Windows XP be installed on them ?

  5. Mike Nolan says:

    Mark,

    You can install XP on the eee PC, indeed they sell a version with it pre installed in some markets, at a higher cost due to licencing. I doubt there would be much onboard storage left after installing Windows though – the Linux distro on the 4GB eee PC uses about half the space – the 2GB has fewer features. There’s also a whole bunch of issues about optimising for XP – reducing the amount it needs to swap to disk (because flash memory has a finite number of writes), and making use of the small screen.

    If Microsoft feel threatened by this in the home market then I suspect they’ll massively reduce the licence costs to “force” OEMs to install Windows but this is a risky move – Corporates and the Education sector won’t want to see that they’re subsidising the home market because they’re an easy target.

  6. Elliott says:

    Brand loyalty was a very real experience for me…i was a Playstation fan-boy through and through…PSOne….PS2….I couldn’t wait for the PS3….but then came the Xbox 360 – and at a much cheaper price point. I dropped Sony faster than a chubby skydiver with a faulty parachute. Price and availability won out over brand loyalty. If the Linux sub £100 laptops are available now, and a similar windows machine may not even ever happen (in the forseeable future) then I don’t think brand loyalty has a leg to stand on. You can’t be loyal to a product that doesn’t exist yet.

  7. Stuart Gould says:

    I have to admit that so far I’m very impressed with the mini laptops I have encountered. The eee in particular stands out as a perfect example of a cheap portable device that gives you far more than a PDA or mobile phone. I think the biggest area of interest with this new generation of cheap laptops lies in the $100 laptop program (One Laptop Per Child and similar schemes). They are providing a much “fuller” desktop experience as they aren’t as limited by chassis space as the ultra mobile variants.

    In terms of OS I do find the Linux distributions they are shipping to be somewhat lacking. I’d like to see them move towards full Linux desktops that offer the same customization as you would get from a normal pc. Hopefully this will come in time as flash disk sizes increase and costs drop. With the 8 gig eee coming this summer and the prospect that we could well see 16 and 32 gig eee pc’s shipping next year it could soon be a moot point.

    As for Windows I would be keen to see Microsoft pushing a variant of their Windows XPe operating system onto these devices. Unfortunately at a time where Microsoft seem intent on developing more system intensive operating systems (Vista anyone?) this seems quite unlikely! Our Magicnet screens have XPe installed and give a full desktop and the ability to install standard packages on around 512meg of flash memory. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_XP_Embedded

  8. Paul says:

    What’s great about the Elonex offering is that the dedicated OS memory is 128MB on the base model and a massive 256mb on the enhanced version. The 1GB (2GB enchanced) can be extended to 16GB with add ons. What flavors of windows will run in 128MB or 256mb? Windows XP would run, but according to the mininum spces the OS requires 1.5 GB, and once the OS is installed what apps would fit onto it ‘out of the box’. The cost of MS Office and all the equivalent apps would push the cost of this device up and up. The Office 2007 big deal at the moment is about £39 to students, that’s almost half the cost of the Elonex in the first place. Add in an XP license and the cost goes up and up.

  9. richardm says:

    Hi Paul

    Has it arrived yet??

  10. Paul says:

    I’m expecting an email towards the end of June with delivery details. As soon as it is delivered I’ll use it to write a blog post.

  11. Pingback: Core Services » Elonex Update

  12. NeillC says:

    I’m waiting for the mac version…

    of course they’ll have to move the price decimal point one place to the right…. but i don’t mind…..you won’t attract the girls with linux or XP

  13. NeillC says:

    i meant girls…

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