Colin Charles Agenda

Dell Mini Inspiron? New Asus EeePC’s? Its the keyboard, silly

So, it looks like Asus is rolling out more Eee PC’s, with bigger screens – up to 10 inches. They’ll be loading it with an Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor, and they’re promising 7.5 hours of battery life.

Now we’re talking. The Eee 701 that I own is piss poor with regards to the battery life. And the other thing that has annoyed me for a while with the Eee, is the keyboard. Its just simply too small. I try to touch type with the Eee, and its not that my fingers are fat (really, they’re comparatively thin and long), but its just difficult. The new Eee’s don’t have such an improvement.

They’re still going to be shipping with 12 or 20 gigabyte SSDs. One thing I notice with the Eee is that for critical bits of information, I definitely do not even need more than 4GB of storage.

I think I’m over the Eee. I’ll probably run OpenSolaris on it soon (I wonder if ZFS performs well on flash based storage?) and dock it with a real keyboard, mouse and monitor. And I think that’s where the Eee could shine (or where OpenSolaris could shine) – support a limited set of hardware from a few laptop manufacturers, and one might be a great success if everything “just works”.

What’s caught my fancy this week? The Dell Mini Inspiron. There are photos, and the specifications according to Slashdot (take it with a grain of salt) state:

All for under-USD$500? Eee and Macbook Air killer. Of course, no mention of what kind of disk storage will be available. Frankly, I don’t care if its not flash or SSD; throw in an 80GB 4,200rpm 1.8″ drive even. SSD is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist today for laptops (it offers next to no benefit to hard disks, in battery life or performance).

So Dell, you’ll have my business, plus the extended 3-year “everything” warranty if you come up with something like the above. Make sure the keyboard is usable. Heck, if you can fit 1280×800 on something smaller than a 12″ screen, that’d be fabulous. And don’t forget to throw in WiFi and Bluetooth. Forget an optical drive. Pack it all in with a 7 hour battery life, and you’ll be selling Mini Inspirons like there’s no tomorrow.

Heck, bring back the idea of docking stations! (I realise that a lot of young folk reading might have no idea what a docking station is, but these were fairly popular in the 90’s for laptops, to “enhance” their capabilities with parallel ports, serial ports, an optical drive, etc.) Charge us a whole bunch more for a sensible docking station. The Mini Inspiron might not be someone’s only laptop, but neither is the MacBook Air.

No mention of what OS will be on it. I don’t really care what flavour of Linux comes with it, I’m probably rooting for Ubuntu LTS, but if it comes with something crap like Xandros (aka Eee PC), its easy enough to replace it with something more sensible.

All I can say is that the next couple of months should be real fun for mini-laptop purchasers. It almost seems like you’ll end up owning several mini-laptops, keeping them in various parts of the home… after all, as we all move online, everything we need will be within a web-browser, right? :)