A Low-Cost Laptop War! OLPC XO-1 vs. ASUS Eee PC

   
   
   
   
   

A low-cost laptop war of unprecedented scale! At the same time as One Laptop Per Child announces a XO laptop "Buy Two-Get One" fire sale to try and save the Children's Machine we have Star Tech with the AllAsus website starting up pre-orders for the Eee PC ultra portable laptop.

For the tiny price of $399 you can either help out OLPC (and presumably a child in the Third World) or you can buy a Eee PC laptop with a 7 inch 800x480 screen, 4GB of flash memory, 512MB of RAM, a built-in webcam, a carry bag PLUS you can get it in black or white.

Wayan would call the Asustek Eee PC Negroponte's "$100 laptop" blowback.

Now I don't know about you but I would do the right thing and buy an XO for a Third World kid. It seems the charitable thing to do. I'm sure the OLPC isn't running out of money and need to pay a few bills. I'm also positive that once the children in those third world countries get their laptops they will have an education strategy in place to make good use of the technology.

On the other hand, that Eee sounds like a great little machine for $400 dollars. I get eight times the flash memory of the XO, a faster processor, a choice of color and it should just about fit in my pocket. Of course I'd be paying a pre-order non-refundable $150 deposit on the Eee but that just lessens the burden.

I'm sure it seems to be interesting timing that both these machines are appearing at around the same time. I'm sure Negroponte and the guys at the Media Lab realized that if they didn't fill orders for the first large scale production run at Quanta Computer then the XO would be dead in the water.

What agreements were in place with Quanta? They are a business and have to make a profit, unlike OLPC as a registered charity group. Perhaps if the OLPC couldn't make governmental orders appear or couldn't get the operating system finished then the technology in the XO would go straight into a design for the general public.


She wants a OLPC gift for Xmas

Would Quanta be offering their billion dollar customers the XO technology in a new package by Christmas? It's obviously too late for that this year but it makes me wonder. Is the XO laptop the perfect Christmas gift? The season of giving?

It seems to be the perfect opportunity to get a learning machine for my nephew. The XO would stand up to his punishment. Or would he just bash away on the rubber keyboard, enjoying the feel of those silicon buttons. Perhaps a simple music program that plays a note when a key is pressed would keep his attention. Of course he'd only get the XO after I was fully satisfied it was safe for him to use.

With all the portability in devices now, will people be outside in the sunshine sending email and browsing the Web? Obviously the laptop with the best screen will win out. My current laptop has a terrible screen for outdoor viewing.

Owning an XO will mean perfect viewing of websites in the brightest sunshine. The battery life will let me read a book all day in a park. The mesh networking will let me collaborate with other XO users. Well, I'm not big on collaboration. I don't even help my wife with the housework so I guess that's not going anywhere. Of course she would tell me I have enough gadgets. And she's right. I do.

Well, maybe.

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17 Comments

Re: youtube video. Note the woman on the beach wearing dark glasses and the sun seems to be shining on the screen from her back left. I can't imagine she can see anything!

Any idea if the ASUS Eee PC will be available for pre-order in Europe as well?

If I register on the Asus website I can only choose between Puerto Rico / USA / Virgin Islands..

I got a mail from AllAsus: only in the US, if anyone finds a reseller for Europe please let me know

Jeroen,

I think there are a number of people in Europe who want a OLPC and/or a Asus that are currently denied. Have you thought of using a mail forwarder? A company that gives you a USA address and then ships your mail on to you overseas.

Wayan,

Asustek is a low cost computer maker in Taiwan just like Quanta. In fact there are many such firms in Taiwan. The Taiwanese are all similiar to this Eee PC. Traditionally, it is the high-end of the market that they do not cover.

Taiwanese Laptop makers: Sunrise IT Corp., Acer Inc, Clevo Computer Co,Quanta Computer Inc, Sheng Tung Development Co Ltd, Spectec Computer Co Ltd, Mitac International Corp, Asustek Computer Inc, Dragon Eyes Industrial Co. Ltd, Twinhead International Corp, Senao International Co Ltd, ICON Electronic Co Ltd, Inventec Corporation, Ximantech Pvt., Qbit Online,Advanced Power Technology International Co Ltd

The Eee is not going to ship for $260. Try and order it, they won't ship it at that price. If they do, it'll be a very limited number to some bloggers to have them talking about Eee being so cheap when really Asus has no interest in selling large amounts of Eee with a loss.

So most probably that the only Eee that Asus will want to make available in larger quantities will be the one for $399, and for that price you've got less features and there isn't a kid in the developping world getting a free laptop from you.

Trouble is, why bother? All the bloggers in the world shouting in unison that the Eee is a great $260 computer won't mean a thing if you can only buy it for $400.

At $400 it's just a little below the low end conventional laptop. They're edging down to the $450 range and on a feature-for-feature basis, which would be the appropriate comparison if the price is so close, the Eee doesn't show up so well.

If you've got some evidence or reason to believe that Asus will ship Eee's in volume aimed at a $400 price-point I'd like to hear/read it.

Allen and Charbax,

I had expected you might actually visit the AllAsus website first before commenting.

$259 for the 2GB no Camera
$299 for the 2GB with Camera
$399 for the 4GB with Camera

Now if they are taking pre-order payments of $150 its a fair bet that they will ship for the price quoted plus freight.

For my money $299 + freight with a camera and 2GB is awesome.

What's the battery life on the ASUS Eee? Is it designed for efficiency and durability like the XO? Does it come with a custom-tailored (yet still open source) interface and OS? Can it display fully-readable text in direct sunlight? Can it do mesh networking? Can it mesh while off?

Can it fold up its keyboard and turn into an eBook when desired. Does it have a stylus and special trackpad capable of accepting handwriting and drawings?

Can it be recharged in the absence of electrical power simply by pulling a cord? Is it part of a greater project designed to bring educations to the poorer parts of the world and make a positive difference in the world?

If so, then I'll surely take the ASUS Eee PC.

> I had expected you might actually visit the AllAsus website first before commenting.

Why? AllAsus is just another retail outlet with no special affiliation with Asustek which, by the way, appears to have hardly anything on their web site about the Eee.

But assuming their pricing reflects Asus' wholesale prices, and the "non-refundable" suggests Asus hasn't settled on wholesale prices, it's only the $249 machine that's much in the way of competition to the XO. The addition of the web cam hardly warrants the $50 increase in my opinion.

Anyway, it's all vaporware until the UPS guy shows up.

I still don't get the point of the Eee, and though am slightly less cynical than charbax, I see his point. For $450 I bought a factory-refurbished laptop off dellauction, and I could've held out for a better deal if I had that patience thing going for me. It had a 1400x1050 screen, 1GB RAM, 60GB HDD, wifi, and a decent video card, and a DVD/CDRW drive. Admittedly, it was USB 1.1 (ugh), and doesn't have a webcam built-in. I've dropped the DVD drive in favor of a second battery and enjoy 4-6 hours of battery life. It runs kUbuntu with compiz smoothly, letting me wow my Windows-loving friends. Now, why would I pay 50-100 less and lose my hard drive and have a low-power processor? I don't get it. The OLPC at least has some awesome technologies (screen, mesh, power generation) under the hood, and you're buying two at the $399 pricepoint.

Jon, I have a factory refurbished Dell C400 myself running Ubuntu very nicely. A spanking new battery gives me several hours of wireless fun. The 30GB hard drive gives me endless hours of entertainment in the form of video. The 12 inch screen is just right for any number of work related functions.

So, now, there's the Eee.
7 inch screen, a few GB of non volatile memory, three hours of battery life according to the stats listed on the AllAsus website.

Note the last few comments on my post up above. No not about my lack of housely duties, its a new gadget and thats where my interest is.

The portability is also a big tick on my list. If I can hang my HSDPA modem off the USB port I can be anywhere (in the CBD or suburbs) and get an internet connection...in my pocket.

I just need a nice shady area to be able to view the screen. It probably competes quite favorably with my Nokia E61.

I personally don't see a war. People that want a more "retail" looking machine that can be bought from most any website will go the Asus and the rest to the XO. While we have an understanding and appreciation of the similarities, Joe User sees two very different machines. Add in that, IMO, it's going to be a monster size market in 3-5 years I think there's room for both (and more) to thrive. The XO should also always have the price advantage since management costs are much lover than Asus' and having an immediate and large profit margin is not a driving factor.

While the Asus looks nice it's missing the big features to me (and many others): tablet form, "dual" screen and rugged.

BTW, thanks for the site. It's solid and a great place to track what's going on with XO matters.

b2

Digitimes says Eee PC is a OLPC killer:

"The Eee PC, however, has improved the shortcomings found in the XO, upgrading the CPU frequency to 900MHz, expanding its memory to 512MB and its storage capacity to 2GB and above, and adopts an outer design similar to a standard notebook.

Although a number of hardware specifications of Eee PC have been upgraded to a greater extent as compared to OLPC, the lowest Eee PC is priced at US$199, which is only US$11 higher than current OLPC costs.

This may indicate that the strategy adopted by OLPC to push down the production costs at the expense of performance is not commeasurable.

http://www.digitimes.com/systems/a20070927PD211.html

"This may indicate that the strategy adopted by OLPC to push down the production costs at the expense of performance is not commeasurable."

Indeed, but only if the Eee is actually sold for this price in quantity. But then the OLPC has reached it's goal: Low cost computer power for the masses. And we all know from Moore's law that capacity doubles every 18 months. Any sizeable delay of the XO makes it obsolete. We already see the Asus computer "parasiting" on the XO design.

On the other hand, better CPU and memory specs doesn't make the Eee a better computer for the developing world. Still not rugged enough (temperature and water), too high power (even higher at 900 MHz?), and still no mesh networking.

The whole point of the OLPC was NOT to deliver the most CPU cycles per dollar, but to design a useful computer for third world school kids.

I still think Intel and Asus are not after the poor kids, but the better off ones. The ones who do have internet, dry, air conditioned rooms and reliable power plugs.

Winter

Asus on sale this week in Taiwan! From Digitimes:

Jonathan Tsang, president for sales and marketing at Asustek Computer, has revealed that the company will announce the price tag for its Eee PC on October 16. He also noted that prices for the product in the retail market will not be lower than US$200 with the price tag of US$199 only available for contract purchases.

Asustek, on June 5, unveiled its ultra low-cost notebook, the Eee PC, at Computex Taipei 2007. The company highlighted that the Eee PC will carry a suggested retail price of US$199 at that time.

Eee PC will officially hit the Taiwan market on October 16 with the initial batch of shipments no larger than 10,000 units, said Asustek. The company will begin offering the product through Best Buy and Newegg in the US by the end of this month, while availability in the China market may arrive by the end of the year, the company added.

The Taiwan company stated its has received contract orders of over one million units from countries in emerging markets.
http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20071011PD218.html

Groklaw has a comparison:
XO and Asus EeePC: Comparing Size, Keyboards & Screens
http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20080128171935946

A quote:
"What surprised me the most was the screen. I knew that the XO had a better screen than the Intel Classmate (you can compare them side by side in this YouTube video which is pushing the Classmate as booting slightly faster, but the screen comparison is devastating to the Classmate, in my view; here's a second one, perhaps even more clear), but the comparison Jerry shows between the XO and the Eee PC was unexpected. Also the keys on the keyboard of the Eee PC are a lot smaller than I expected. I knew the XO keys were small, because it was designed for children, including 5-year-olds (who are reportedly able to repair the laptops themselves, due to the design), so it was deliberate. Yet the difference between its size and the Asus EeePC was minimal. Yet the Eee PC *was* designed for adults (a reader reminds me it was first advertised for kids too), and people are raving about it, but if you have large fingers, you may find it not so useful for you. If you have slender fingers, you may be able to adjust. But that's true for the XO also."

Winter

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