A while back I commented on the unpalatable choices for Microsoft arising from the falling prices of hardware. Well now I think we might have the first evidence that cheap basic laptops running Linux have the potential to hurt Microsoft.
Yesterday Asus did the official announcement for its EEE line of cheap laptops. As expected, Asus hopes to ship 3 million units next year. After plenty of bait and switching by the Asus PR machine the prices are higher than expected (starting at T$7,999 or $US$245) but not too bad for what you get. Prices will fall but but probably not dramatically as the price point is low to begin with. The
"In a significant development, Asustek said it would also offer a version of the ultra low-cost PCs with Microsoft's Windows operating system, after initially saying that all the computers would carry the open-source, free Linux system. Windows versions of the computer would cost about T$1,000 more than Linux versions, leading many to say that Microsoft had offered the Windows systems at a big discount from its usual price of T$2,000 to T$3,000 for mass buyers."
It seems XP will be the Vista Poverty edition. PC World reports:
"XP fits the low-cost segment," said Davis Tsai, general manager of Microsoft Taiwan....Asustek showed off one Eee PC running Microsoft Windows XP Professional, version 2002, service pack 2. The Windows Eee PC included Office 2003 versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Word
T$1000 is about US$30. Does the large discount indicate that Microsoft is concerned about keeping its marketshare, or does it indicate that Asus is worried that people won't buy their EEE laptops if they aren't bundled with Windows? The good thing is that it seems that consumers will finally have a choice about whether they actually want to pay extra for Windows.
Personally, as a long time Windows user, I'm hoping the EEE or one of the other basic laptops coming out is going to offer me an easy introduction and transition to Linux. If you're interested in an Asus, EEE User is the place to track further announcement and releases. Bestbuy and Newegg seem to be the places that will have them in the States.