When you listen, they will buy

I love it when the penny finally drops.

PC manufacturers have known for some time that there was a demand for a light weight laptop. And by light weight I mean under-powered - by modern standards - as well as the literal sense.

Building a machine that is less sophisticated than a modern laptop brings with it many benefits - size and battery life being two of the three you might expect. Unfortunately for PC manufacturers, they never did crack the third - price - until now, in the form of the Asus EEE PC.

And it is not like they didn't take a while to learn the lesson. Psion was the first to take a crack at a such a device with the Series 5 and then - perhaps for fear of causing carpal tunnel on a mass scale - the larger Series 7. The Series 7 in particular most closely resembled the EEE PC with one glaring exception - a price that rivaled fully fledged laptops of the day. I don't have the stats to hand, but as best I recall the Series 7 reviewed fairly well in the press but did not set the sales world on fire.

Compaq , HP, IBM, NEC and Sharp must have thought that Psion were onto something as all jumped on this particular bandwagon at the back end of the nineties with their somewhat euphemistically named Windows CE Handheld PC Professional ranges. Based around the Windows CE operating systems but sporting full sized keyboards, again their functionality reviewed fairly well but a prohibitive pricing strategy again strangled sales numbers (Though I must confess to having picked up a used HP Jornada 820 via eBay for a rather more reasonable $400 AUD and fell victim to the charms of its diminutive dimensions and almost instant startup).

But concept of the sub-notebook-lite almost died a permanent death with the Palm Foleo. Designed as a companion to other Palm products, it was too big and too heavy and justify its moderate abilities. Palm pulled the pin on the Foleo before it was released.

This might have been enough to scare off most prospective builders of the light weight, light ability almost-laptop but hindsight tells us it did not. Not quite.

Enter, Asus.

With a super small form factor and brandishing a good sized (actually, slight on the just-too-small side of good) keyboard, the Asus EEE PC has sold in droves. It is not perfect - the 7-odd inch screen and never-updated Linux operating system had some people squinting and cursing - but it still sold and sold and sold and sold due to a staggeringly good price which was somewhere between half the price of a low end laptop and one-fifth the price of a sub-notebook.

And the fun in the light weight, light function laptop market is not due to stop there. With the nine inch screen EEE PC just released and a flurry of copycats due for release soon competition in this space should rise and prices, with any luck, will fall from their already reasonable levels. Which should boost sales in this sector again.

The penny has dropped; price, above all, matters., , , , ,