What's the Future of Portable Computing?

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I’m quite surprised with the number of reactions we received after the unboxing of the Asus Eee PC. I received an email from Gordon that was thought-provoking, and thought we should discuss what he has to say.

I just watched your ASUS EEE review on CNN. It costs 400$. Have you ever compared it to the iPod touch? You might be wondering how can they possibly be comparable. When in China, I found out an unintentional usage for my iPod Touch: it’s a mini computer. When I got homesick, I’d find a wifi hotspot, and surf the web with my iPod Touch. I’d also write email, and check on my MySpace to say hi to friends. Even at home, when I’m eating chips or drinking beer, I can lean back on my sofa and surf the Web, as opposed to walking to my computer. When I visit my friends’ houses, I don’t have to kick them out of their computer to use the internet. I just pop out my iPod Touch, and surf away without making anything inconvenient for my friends.

Now that I think about it, it’s not comparable to an iTouch… it’s comparable more to an iPhone, due to the hardware capacity. I think the future of portable computing is more geared towards things like the iPhone, more so than a device such as the Eee. For one reason, the iPhone fits in your pocket. The Eee has a full-on keyboard, and can run Windows.

What do you really need from a portable computer? You’ll surf the web, check your email, maybe create or edit some documents. Gosh… why can’t we just use the iPhone? It’s easier and smaller… much better portability.

With great timing, Julian also sent an email to me with his top five reasons for using an Eee PC.

  • Cost For what you get, the Eee is a complete bargain in my view. I have the 701 4G, which came with the Xandros system loaded on it. I have replaced that with XP. However, there is a temptation to add extra memory, and also large SD cards. Once you have spent extra money on those components, you are heading towards the price of a reasonably well-featured, full-size laptop. If you do this, then think carefully about the uses you want to put the Eee to, as the small form factor may not be reason enough compared to a ‘proper’ laptop.
  • What operating system? Linux or XP? Try Xandros first before going to XP. If you are a regular Windows or Mac user, the temptation may be to ignore Linux altogether. Don’t. You will surprised at how functional Xandros is, and find that open-source applications may work fine for your needs. Buying, say, a copy of XP to put onto the Eee also questions the overall cost. For me, the small size and portability is key so these extra costs are acceptable. But this will not be true for all users. There are plenty of resource websites to help you look at alternative operating systems, such as Ubuntu.
  • Why do I want one? Before buying, sit down and write a list of your needs for such a machine. Do you only want it because of the “coolness factor”?Once the novelty has worn off, you may be left with a computer that has no more function than to collect dust. Key motivations may be a first PC for a child, portability whilst on the road, quick email and internet access, or portability around the home. Make sure you are going to have a real use for it.
  • Which versions to get? Buy the 4 gig version. 2 gig is ok if staying with Xandros, but for XP in particular… 4 gig is a must. Newer models are now available with 8 gig, and 9 inch screens. Apart from that, they are the same as older models. There are a couple of really nice utilities available for free. Astray Plus allows higher screen resolution with some loss of quality. Be careful not to overdo it though, as you are effectively forcing the machine to operate in a manner it was not designed for.
  • Battery life The battery life is ok, but I’m a heavy user of Internet and Wifi, which will drain the battery fairly quickly. There are larger capacity batteries available, but be careful what you buy. Some restrict the ability of the lid to open all the way back, and of course adds weight and size to the overall machine. A standard spare battery may be sufficient, but is something else to carry around.


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63 thoughts on “What's the Future of Portable Computing?”

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  3. Well, I think it will get smaller and smaller… but there is a limit. Cause when things get smaller…then screens get smaller. Also, there is no room for keyboard. Some people don’t really care for a keyboard when it comes to portability. I don’t know. I don’t think they’ll get much smaller then like the iPhone or iTouch. It is a very good thing to bring up though. I know there is those laser keyboards though so maybe we can get smaller as long as you don’t car about screen size. Oh but then again…you could always plug into a tv like the PSP. Now you got me really thinking. Jesh.

  4. Using the EEE PC out in hte field with Internet acess testing, ethernet, and a whole raft of softwate diagnositcs and tools I find it far more usefull than a laptop because of size, if I want special applications I can use a Key mem stick and run almost anyhting required. I like the full size (almost keypad) compared with smaller handhelds and as the future this is surely a starter for many people and also available at a price for schools where there may be less affluence..

    Whilst there are drabacks such as a memory limitation I think there is quite sufficient to cover almost all potential needs on the road as even with XP and fiull Office there is still enough to cope.

    I have no connection at all with Asus but I feel your review underarted those who have limited budgets and need something more than a ‘grand phone!’

    keep the reveiws coming!

    M Dodd MSc

  5. The Eee fills a niche that neither a full-size laptop nor a smart phone fills: the ability to run a real office program and access it from a touch-type keyboard on a screen that is legible to people over age 35. This also applies to email and surfing in general. While you can’t see a full web page, at least you see the whole thing by scrolling.

    People complain about the small keyboard, and it’s not the same as my full-size gaming keyboard but it beats the heck out of a touch screen. If I look at my hands, I have no trouble typing at nearly full speed with few errors — and I type more than 60 wpm.

    Apart from that, there are two other issues: a machine the size of a trade paperback that will easily tuck many places a “real” laptop won’t, and relative immunity to shock and movement. Many people don’t realize how much stress moving a machine with a hard drive puts on the drive. Basic physics, gyroscopic action, etc.

    The Eee is sort of like a pocket pistol: it’s not for hunting big game, but you can easily carry it with you and it beats being unarmed by a couple of miles.

  6. I am actually on my iPod touch right now. And I have to say I like to use it more than my computer. While computers have more power and more apps, in June Apple is releasing the apps store meaning endless possibilities for iPod touch and iPhone users. While some may still prefer the regular keyboard, I actually like the onscreen keyboard, especially in widescreen. But I really couldnt see myself using anything smaller screen-wise than the iPod touch. After you get this small, i think the only way to go is with projected screens, meaning the computer could be as small as a credit card or smaller maybe but still have a great screen.

    But personally I love the iPod touch and I probably will. It an iPhone when I switch wireless carriers. And with the app store, iPhone and iPod touch are unstoppable!

  7. Completely depends on where i am…and how LONG i’m going to be there. ..i’m not staring at a 4 inch screan for any extended period of time. personally i’d go for the mini notebook

  8. I have often considered getting the Asus Eee PC, but I own an iPod Touch and I have come to the same conclusions as the person who wrote in. For everything that I would use an ultra-portable laptop for (internet, email, watching YouTube, notes, maps, weather, music, videos), I can already do on the Touch. For anything more, I would just bring my Macbook Pro to get the job done.

    This can be best illustrated by a recent trip I took to Texas for a seminar. As I was packing, I debated whether to take my Macbook Pro to just take a chance and just take my iPod Touch. My main concern was checking company emails because I work at an Architecture firm (I’m an Electrical Engineer) and I didn’t know if I would need the keyboard to write back lengthy email. I decided to take a chance and just take the Touch.

    I was pleasantly surprised how much the Touch met my needs. Typing lengthy emails on the touch screen wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be and there was even a bonus. I found out I could open FULL SIZE 30″x42″ pdf drawings attached to emails. After they loaded, I was able to pinch in and pan around the drawing to look at fine details. I didn’t know the pdf viewer in the Touch could handle drawings that size and I was definitely impressed.

    With the SDK coming out in a couple months, I truly believe the iPod Touch and iPhone will become true full fledged handheld computers. For my needs, the Touch is more than enough. I like the Asus Eee PC and maybe someday I’ll get one just for kicks. But I’ve already got an ultra-portable computer that meets my needs and it’s called the iPod Touch.

  9. i think laptops/imac-like designd computers are going to replace bulky tower PCs and computers, but OF COURSE will still be selling for scientists and movie professionals. and i think iphone/ipod touch-like devices will replace laptops.

  10. yes it is. At least the iPhone and iPod touch come with a better OS. Xandros is a POS, they should have pre-installed Ubuntu instead and the iPhone is truly portable. I can’t carry a laptop in my pocket, can I? And the iPhone is far better than the Nokia n8000 or any other phone for internet browsing. Like Pirillo says, no phone has such good implementation as the iPhone

  11. And 7″ and 9″ screens are waaayyy to small for a laptop. Ultra-portables are used for editing documents and making presentations and the Eee PC is crap at that. I want to see someone running Microsoft Office 2007 on it. The smallest screen that I would use on a laptop would be a 12″. Eee PC sucks!

  12. Im always guna keep my full-sized laptop. Even as mobile devices are developed laptop technology will advance more also and laptops will always be one step ahead of compact devices… And I use my computer for long times, that means I was a big screen and fullsized keyboard!

  13. Iphone is more portable but what about service. You would have to switch to At&T if you haven’t already. that one down side. Or you could just get a I POD touch. The Asus computer though probably does have better hardware naturally. has more software support. Then if you need more than 4GB of space you can go out and by a 32GB flash drive. That should be able to hold you for a while.

  14. I do not like typing with my thumbs. Because of that I will always be searching for a keyboard/comfortable keyboard with a mouse. I don’t care how small it gets, if it can’t offer me that; then the conversation comes to an abrupt halt.

  15. I can really see now how mobile computing is changes. I mean you can do almost everything you can on say your laptop that you can now do on your smart phone. And if you do say need a laptop they are getting really small and light like the Macbook Air, the EEE PC, the new HP little notebook. But when I travel I guess you could say I need the extra power, and speed. So I am willy to lug around a 6lb. notebook in my bag. But that is just me.

  16. I think that the ipod touch isn’t a good device because it only has WIFI. The iphone is a better portable computer because you can use it anywhere. The EEE computer is good but i needs a bigger hard drive. 4 gig isn’t enough because the OS takes most of it up.

  17. First off, Im actually amazed you missed the iPod Touches name.
    Yes, its iPod Touch not iTouch, though everyone calls it that.
    Its still an iPod!
    Anywho, I agree with its being said.
    An iPhone does a better job on doing all those things PLUS, it can make calls!
    I don’t personally have one, since I think that not being able to get a device protection on it, is just wrong.
    I like my things to be protected against theft, water or anything of the kind.
    That being said, I say goodbye.

  18. Hi Chris,

    The Eee certainly is interesting…. and it’s also the first time that I’ve ever seen three “E’s” next to each other in the same word. :OP

    That said, I think Apple’s iPhone would still outsell this product even if we assumed that all things were equal on the marketing end.

    For me personally, the problem with the Eee is that even despite it’s small size, you’re still carrying around a laptop. I mean, if I’m going to have to carry a computer around with me, I’d much rather just spend the extra 1% of muscle energy to carry around my regular laptop!

    The iPhone really seems to have an advantage here in that a person can carry it around in their pocket with great ease.

    And yes, I do believe that the future of computing is going to be very iPhone-like. (Sorry, Eee).

    By the way, is it just me or is our world becoming less-and-less personal as it becomes more-and-more connected? :O/

    Thanks for blogging,
    James Gia

  19. You should have included a link to your review on the EEE pc. I will look into the differences between all 3, as i plan on getting me an ultra portable PC.

    Sounds like the iTouch, is the way to go. The arrival of APPS for it in June, sounds very promising and exciting. Look forward to this.

  20. I think the ipod is the future. I have an iPod Touch and it is just amazing. I have of course hacked it for the 3rd party apps. That Asus computer just seems old to me. Like that would of have been amazing technology like a couple of years ago. But now you got the iphone which to me is just as good as that. The only good thing with the Asus is that it has a bigger screen compared to the iPhone. By the way… I love what you do!

  21. As everyone said before me said, I also think that computers will become like the Ipod touch. One concern that a few people mentioned was that there was no room for a keyboard. I wonder if it would be possible for a company to make a fold up or roll up keyboard for their device so that it can be more portable. They can use the same technology they use for the DDR mats. I also recall seeing a roll up piano keyboard at a sharper image store, maybe it can be like that.

  22. who knows? There could be portable computer glasses and so many tech gadgets the man cant even imagine. We have gone so far in are technical machines. Who knows where technology can take us in the future?

  23. it’s amazing how far technology has come so far. The amazon kindle is getting rid of actual paper books, the ipod and iTunes is getting rid of CD’s, cell phones are having everything from GPS to phone books. Pretty soon we will have only one piece of technology with everything we need. its amazing! the ipod touch i ok, but i was using my friends and i found that it was more of a mp3 player and a not a pc type. It it true that the iphone does allow you to check your email, but as long as they are with at&t you can not call them a portable pc. At&t is known in the mobile world as having the slowest internet connection. when the iphone’s contract breaks its contract with at&t i would definitely use the iphone. i currently use a windows pocket pc and the memory is horrible and the software has proven to be very inadequate. i would love to have a pocket pc that incorporated everything: GPS, high capacity memory, fast internet connection, mp3 player, and a good size

  24. withen 20 years, you might be able to play crysis on a laptop the size of the Eee pc. P.S. Chris could I have the Eee PC instead of the webcam???

  25. I rather want a small computer for checking my mail etc. I have tried to use my mobile phone to read mail, surf the web and so on but I think a small portable computer is better.

  26. Now this is a stretch, but I think it will come down to the nano-technology eventually, but not for a while. I watched a video on Nokia’s Nanophone they are developing, and it looked incredible. It can be bent, re-skinned, worn, even stretched and still be functional. I believe that maybe in the near future much of the mobile technology will be invested in nano-technology because it can be enlarged or shrunk depending on the need of the user.

  27. i think the iphone is a better choice… for me when i travel its more convenient taking the itouch…. its less space and like you said you can carry it in your pocket… and the only real problem is that you need to find a wireless connection.. so i think the i touch or i phone you would be the best choice for someone looking portability and quick easy & access

  28. i use a Nseries internet tablet. and, i prefer it than the regullar laptops when im on the go. UMPC, are for sure the future of computers. just that, we will have wirelles keyboard, and monitors for them when we go. into them }. Check the “Umpc future” video

  29. I saw a person using a EEE PC in the mall the other day and was shocked just how small it is in person. I then noticed that she was in a word processor of some type and wondered to myself just how effective such a small laptop would be for proofreading a document. Then again, I am a bigger guy that has bad eyes. What does everyone else think?

  30. Well, where there aren’t enough WiFi hotspots, you should get a pocket surfer, so in remote areas, you can get a signal, a big downside to the iPod touch/iPhone/Asus eee

  31. I’m hoping for tablets in some type of roll up- OLED screen! Tablets would be especially useful in school for writing notes, It can keep you very organized.

  32. no, the future is already here, there are many new technology which we never thought, there are too much to figure out how the computing and other technology will look like, bars, military will be the first that will have multi touch screens (Computers), like putting a credit card on the counter and it automatically transfers money , or put a camera on it and automatically it shows you yours pictures without to plug in the camera to anything , you can resize the pictures and videos without ruining the quality, there are monitors flat as piece of paper. I think that pictures will be projected on hot air, that might be the the end of using monitors.

  33. I think the Eee Pc is a great idea – Dell had a laptop a few years ago around this size but it had a spinning harddrive – The bottom got really hot – How hot does the bottom of this one get??? – Great job Chris

  34. i like both.with reasons.the ipodtouch,you can go anywhere with ir and it fits in your pocket.the asus eeepc,it has a larger screen and well u can just lay it on a desk like all laptop do and yea not like the ipodtouch that you have to hold all the time.

  35. What do you really need from a portable computer?
    In keeping to that question: As a heavy PC user but quiet laptop user, in that I don’t go mobile with it… If I were to, this would be a great device. light and compact and NOT an itty-bitty smart phone. I am not getting any younger and at my age (48) the cell just isn’t where I’d like to surf the net. The smaller devices just aren’t for me. Now, I initially think that I would be at a loss for another drive (CD/DVD) that I am used to with my laptop. The ability to pop in a CD or Play a movie or game. Then I put my brain back in place and note: 1. With a thumb drive/mem card I can do all that. 2. Games and movies can be had on the net, or held or transfered from a USB stick/mem card 3. Go one better and use portable apps (save on drive space).

    I think that I took care of the comparison to any smart phone. Some of us are too old (too stubborn) for the tiny screen (cell) or just plain not tech savvy enough. I am guilty of both.

  36. im actually glad i found this. and even more reason why im gettin’ my iphone this june. awesome, nvr thought about it this way. n tell u the truth, i dont think i want to spend money on a macpro n e more now too. WOW! stunnin’ relavation. thats $400 i will be savin’ on another pc. thanks chris, but ultimately Gordon! but i need wi-fi so the itouch is up there too.NAW!im takin the iphone,lol!

  37. Hi Chris Pirillo

    Can you help us? We are a new computer company based in Tampa, FL..
    We pride ourselves for being the future of computing. It took several long years to research and develop our foremost and unique products.
    We need your expertise and connections.


  38. I got a palm TX and I love it… has all the same fetures and is about the same except the screen dosent last as long… and its only wifi 802.11 B limited

  39. Chris,

    Thanks so much for doing this video! Ever since the EEE PC and iPod Touch came out I have been comparing them. They are both the same price for the low-end models.

    The EEE PC can do more things like word processing, and “productivity” related things, but is still not that portable. The Touch on the other hand only do things like email, web surfing, and media related things. There are advantages of both and since I am going to Chicago for 1 week, and I don’t really want to bring my 15.4″ laptop with me everywhere I go I think that the iPod Touch would be good for me.

    You see, I’m not going to make a presentation or report on the EEE PC. It just doesn’t have the keyboard or screen for that kind of stuff. I would use it for web surfing, taking notes, and emailing. But I can do all that with the iPod Touch, and it can easily fit in my pocket. For me the winner is the Touch.

    Thanks again Chris for doing this article!

  40. i love the ipod touch, that i why i am going to get one soon because if i am go out and there is wireless internet i can go on the internet on my ipod touch.you can do that with the psp, but the only thing with the internet on the psp it is very slow.

  41. “THIS is a computer!” And I thought it was a phone. Unfortunately, the iPhone and iPod Touch weren’t designed as “general purpose computers” and so it’s difficult to make them act like such.

  42. Chris raises a good point. The Iphone/touch does not have a webcam though, and cannot take pictures. If apple included one in the future, they would be GOLD.
    As a college student, though, document editing is an absolute MUST.
    If I had a choice, I would get the eee just because of that feature.

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