Asus Eee PC is tiny, cheap, ‘slaughters’ OLPC XO

Think back to when the XO was just a glimmer in the OLPC Project’s eye and you’ll remember that Intel was once prepping a competing device with its partners, called the Classmate PC. While we haven’t heard much on the Classmate PC front lately, it does seem like Intel’s research has yielded some results: Intel and PC manufacturer Asus have announced the horribly-named “Eee PC,” a 7-inch laptop/UMPC hybrid that’s designed for web browsing and other simple applications. The Eee comes equipped with 512MB of RAM, a 4/8/16GB flash drive for storage and a built-in wireless card, webcam and microphone. What’s more, it’s capable of running either Linux or Windows XP, unlike the Linux-only XO. So what’s it going to cost? Rumor has it that the tiny device will be available in August for $199–half the price of the non-laptop Palm Foleo and only about 20 bucks more than the OLPC. Unlike the OLPC, however, the Eee PC isn’t a philanthropic device; Asus will be selling it to regular folks like you and me through the usual retail channels. Which is not to say that developing nations and inner-city schools couldn’t make good use of it. “Given the fact that Eee can run Linux or Windows XP and it can boot off NAND flash memory in a mere 15 seconds, the Eee slaughters the OLPC with ease,” the always outspoken George Ou writes.

For more on the Eee PC:
– see this PC Magazine article
– and this blog entry from ZDnet‘s George Ou

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While the Eee PC looks just great (I’d like one), to say it slaughters the OLPC is really missing the point. The OLPC is not just hardware, but software (not Windows or a conventional Linux distro but special software to help kids learn). The OLPC hardware is also very special including:
-a video camera
-a hand cranked power source for areas with no electricity
-a completely waterproof design
-built-in mesh networking to make a wireless community
-2 watt power consumption

There’s really no comparison. The Eee PC is really just a tiny, conventional laptop. The OLPC is very specially designed computer and not for the consumer market.

BTW, Microsoft has created a version of Windows that runs on the OLPC, but really why bother when that isn’t the purpose for the machine?