The OLPC has succeeded, far beyond what I had expected. What has made it very clear that it has succeeded is the competition that the OLPC has created.
The most interesting competition comes from ASUS’s fabulous little subnotebook, the eeepc, which sells for as little as $299. (Thats right $299–I’m not missing a zero!) It’s the result of collaboration between Intel and ASUS. Despite having a rather weird acronym, it is the tech geek toy and it is also a mass market phenomena. It is the future of mobile computing, and ultimately the consumer desktop as well. It has already sold 350,000 units in its first five months, and ASUS expects to sell 3 to 5 million next year. And it ships with Linux (TM):
The user experience, from all accounts, is very MAC like: it just works, and from the screen shots, it’s interface is elegant, too. And it why shouldn’t it just work? ASUS, like Apple when it developed the Macintosh, has complete control over both the software and the hardware that goes into it. Complete vertical integration, while having software code that they can control: no need to have the kind of disagreements between hardware makers and Microsoft that erupted from the late shipping of Windows Vista. So you get an integrated software environment, optimized precisely for the hardware it ships with:
This computer is the future, and it has arrived at the right place in the market at exactly the right time. That is being at the low end of the market, at the beginning of a long down turn, and also oozing “coolness”. It’s Tiffany at a Wal-Mart price.
The success of this device will inspire others, and once a company like Dell moves in, I think we can see the adoption of linux in a whole new class of devices starting very quickly. The large PC companies will not sit on the sidelines and let an upstart like ASUS have a new market to themselves. They will push in, rapidly. The price point and the diminutive specs of this unit make it rather unlikely that windows will be the OS of choice for this new platform, unless MS radically changes their pricing structure, which is rather doubtful. Of course it could be one of the BSD’s too, used as the OS, but linux seems to have broader driver/device support, so Linux (TM) seems like the natural choice.
In any case, this product is a real winner–the conclusion from one review:
As we bring this product evaluation to a close, we’ll touch again on the level of hype that currently surrounds this product and try and answer the obvious question for you to the best of our ability. Does the Eee PC live up to the marketing spin and hype? In our not-so humble opinion, the answer would be a resounding “yes”. For around $300 – $350 you get a fully functional, well equipped, highly portable PC that is reliable, responsive and just works. You also get a boat-load of software, games and utilities for your money, thanks to the open source initiative surrounding the Linux community in general. Admittedly, we haven’t spent a ton of time with Linux distros for the desktop but what Asus has brought to market with their incarnation for the Eee PC felt perfectly natural for even the Windows snobs amongst our team. We feel very comfortable giving the Asus Eee PC our coveted Editor Choice Award for product innovation and excellence.
And from ASUS:
In the two weeks since it’s launch in the US, the Eee PC has already sold ten thousand sets,” said Sunny Han, Director of ASUS Global Brand Center – confirming the Eee PC’s massive US sales figures. By the end of this year, the projected sales goal of 350 thousand will be met; and next year that figure is projected at 3 to 5 million.
One other very important advantage this platform has: it has every bit of potential to be much more green than the competition: without a hard drive, it’s power consumption is sure to be lower, and to make it using green components will also be much easier. (Note though as of this writing I am unsure if the eeepc is made with green components, but eliminating the hard drive has got to make this easier.)
From wikipedia, the specifications are: