While the UMPC form factor remains a topic of much debate Asus has moved quickly to suggest a potentially smarter alternative...
In conjunction with education body RM it has announced the 'miniBook', an ultra small, ultra affordable laptop designed for basic computer functionality such as composing documents, sending and receiving emails and searching the web. I also suspect this may in fact be Asus' Eee PC in its final form - though I have heard no official confirmation yet from the company.
Looking at the specs, the miniBook is rather familiar: 7in display, sub 1Kg weight (890g, 225 x 165 x 21-35mm), 900MHz Celeron CPU, 256MB/512MB RAM, 2GB/4GB SSD, integrated webcam and wireless g with optional 3G module and healthy connectivity via three USB ports, 10/100 Ethernet and a VGA out. More startlingly however is the miniBook's official RRP: just £169 - a tag which makes it around 5x less than the cheapest UMPC and 7/8x any fully fledged ultra portable laptops like Toshiba's R500, an impressive achievement - even if the products are not directly comparable.
Speaking about its target market, RM CEO Tim Pearson said "We have a responsibility to ensure that all our children have access to the very best learning and the very best technology that is available. By developing a student device that is in the same price range as an iPod I believe we are getting there."
I couldn't agree more. Watch your back XO...
Update: Yep, it's the Eee PC. Asus just confirmed to me that RM has licensed it to sell to the UK education market and we can still expect it to emerge under the 'Eee PC' name as well.
Update 2: I've also learnt the price refers to the 2GB, an RRP for the 4GB model has yet to be announced.
Update 3: The 512MB RAM, 4GB miniBook/Eee PC will retail at £199 - thanks to eagle eyed reader Pratik for the link. When he's not providing useful info I hear he saves small kittens from trees.