Bonus Material: Trading the MacBook for a Netbook

In Discussion by Thomas Minkus

by Thomas Minkus, Guest Correspondent

eeepc1000heMy personal computer of choice is a MacBookPro, which I love. Apple does it right, which means my MacBook never crashes and does everything I need it to do. Unfortunately it is so heavy that I dread taking it on trips. For a few months now, I have had my eyes set on the ultra light weight MacBookAir. However, my office is a PC-only environment. The IT rulers of our company decided that supporting two platforms (PC and MAC) is not an option; so my boss denied my request to buy the MacBookAir.

On a recent flight from London to Frankfurt with my heavy MacBook on my lap, I happened to sit next to a young math professor from Montana. She was working away on a very small laptop, which also quickly caught my attention. It turned out to be one of those so-called netbooks. She was nice enough to let me play with her’s for a few minutes and that very same evening, in compliance with company guidelines, I ordered the Asus Eee PC 1000HE on Amazon for $383.

The Eee PC is shiny, black, small and weighs only 3 pounds. It performs as well as my regular office laptop. I have taken it on a few trips, worked on it in hotel rooms and convention centers, on airplanes and trains, indoors and outdoors, banged it around a bit and even accidentally sat on it…without causing any harm.

The 10-inch screen is bright and clear, which makes it useful for outdoor use as well. Battery life of more than 6 hours is superb. The Taiwanese manufacturer is clever enough not to ship it with the unpopular Windows Vista operating system but rather loads it with the trusted Windows XP.

The keyboard is much better than I expected, although it takes a while to get used to its size. The buttons on the trackpad however are too hard to push and deserve serious re-engineering. The Eee PC comes with all the standard bells and whistles: built-in camera, 160 GB hard drive, Bluetooth, 802.11 wireless card, three USB ports and even a SD card slot, which allows me to transfer pictures and videos quickly from my camera to the Eee.

The 1.66 GHz Intel Atom N280 processor performs fine. There is no CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive but I have not missed it, at least yet. Trying to stay away from the expensive Microsoft Office suite, I installed OpenOffice instead, which I downloaded free of charge from Sun Microsystems. Exchanging files with colleagues back home worked well without any file format issues. The built-in microphone and speakers are good enough to use Skype. No need to carry a headset.

Going online in hotels and airports is not as easy or convenient as it is on a Mac but works as well as can be expected on a PC.

The real selling point for this machine is its size, weight and remarkably low price. It is small enough that I can balance the Eee on my lap in a crowded plane, and I don’t feel its weight it in my carry-on luggage. Should I accidentally lose it, the cost to replace it won’t hurt my pocketbook nearly as much as replacing the MacBookAir, which sells for around $ 1,500 – though it is now a far more robust machine than the first generation.

Its no wonder then, that netbooks are growing in popularity. The market research firm Gartner recently predicted that this year, 21 million netbooks will be sold worldwide, accounting for for 15% of the total laptop market.

The Eee PC is not only a very good and reliable travel companion, but in combination with a larger external screen, it also has the potential to replace traditional laptops. I recommend it without reservations to fellow travelers.

Will I know stop nagging my boss for the MacBookAir? Of course not.

EMAIL: My boss to support my campaign to get the new MacBookAir.

BUY: Order the Asus Eee PC 1000HE.

TELL ME: What you think about netbooks.

About the Author

Thomas Minkus

Thomas Minkus is VP of English Language Markets for the Frankfurt Book Fair. Based in the Book Fair’s New York City office, he spearheads the company’s activities in the fields of digital and mobile publishing, as well as new rights initiatives. In addition, he is responsible for Fair’s exhibitors and customers in all English-languages markets and those from the STM and education sectors. Thomas is also one of the co-founders of Publishing Perspectives. An online publishing newsletter, Publishing Perspectives delivers daily international news and opinion about the industry from top members of the global publishing community. Prior to joining the Fair in 2003, he worked as VP of Sales & Marketing for Learn Technologies, an educational publishing and technology company in New York City.