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Aspiring polymath since 1982

The New Ultra-Mini Revolution

I’m sure anyone who is even a remote follower of gadget blogs would have seen the steady trickle of ultra-mini laptops over the past six months or so. The first culprit to emerge was the Asus EEE PC, followed by the Cloudbook by Everex and now HP’s sleek-looking Mini-Note laptop.

I’m excluding the XO and the Classmate PC in this evaluation because of their target segment being totally different. Getting back to ultra-minis, there is one heartening trend that I see in the introduction of these laptops, which I hope percolates down to the rest of the electronics industry.

Less Bloatware!!

And that encompasses bloatware in both hardware and software. Now, I’m not a neo-Luddite, Amish or a Gandhian. Gadgets like the IPhone and the IMac still make me utter low moans of pleasure in the sub-sonic frequency range. I see that purely as a reflection of their design and not the hardware and software included in them.

Seeing how laptops over the years have evolved from 9″ VGA Toshiba Porteges to 19″ Ultra-Glossy-Superblack-Carbonite Widescreen!!™ equipped behemoths, I wonder whether we are sacrificing usability and portability at the altar of the gadget-equivalent of a nuclear arms race.

I have been using a 12″ Powerbook for the past 3 years now. At the time I bought it, I looked around all over the place for a laptop that had a screen 12″ or lower. Just two manufacturers met my criteria, Apple and Asus. Everything else I could find was 14.1″ and above. I finally chose Apple even though it was more expensive because I fell in love with its build quality.

Over the past 3 years of usage I’ve realized that except for brief forays into computer games and graphics usage, my main application usage has been restricted to Microsoft Office, IWork, Safari and now Firefox, Mail, ITunes and DVD Player. Not exactly usage that would require the bleeding edge in Core 2 Duo processors, dedicated 512MB-equipped DDR RAM video cards and the like.

There has been a very slight sluggishness that has set in to the system, and my reasoning is that it might be because of my heavy hard disk usage. And this might be Mac-specific also, but I usually keep my laptop up and running for over 15 days without a single crash and/or restart.

Now I’m sure that it will be a stretch without any scientific polling or survey backing it, but I’m willing to make the bold claim that nearly 80% of laptop users across the world mirror my application usage patterns. Thanks Pareto.

Since I seem to be getting into the habit of making assumptions, lets add one more to the list. I’m assuming that over the past 3 years, similar applications on Windows XP based-PCs have not increased their hardware requirements. On the Mac, all the revisions of Tiger that I have installed so far have not uttered a murmur about increased hardware requirements.

So if, commonly used applications on both platforms have not increased hardware requirements and that most users have not significantly altered their application usage patterns, then what is the psychology driving people to throw their hard-earned dollars, rupees, kwachas and what-have-you at Moore’s Law?

Why are users still on the hamster wheel?

There are some trends that I hope will start with the introduction of these ultra-mini laptops, namely

  • Emphasis on low-power and as important, low-heat emitting 1.2-1.5 ghz processors such as the Intel Atom
  • Users realizing that 60-80 GB hard disks are really enough, unless you are doing non-linear video editing, audio production, running a BitTorrent haven or taking a full-time plunge into becoming a warez (sic)baron
  • Sub 1.5 kg weight limit for laptops
  • An end to glossy screens. There must be a reason why anti gloss returns 677,000 hits on Google after all
  • Ultra-mini battery lives hitting 3 plus hours on the road. Looking at reviews of the Asus EEE PC and HP Mini-Note, this is yet to happen
  • No more bloated software and crapware

In short, lets hope that laptops become less like swiss army knives and more precision knives.

If you want to get more information about the different products out there in this burgeoning space, follow through to this link from a site on ultra-mini laptops called appropriately, Liliputing

(Update: Head on over to my review of the Asus Eee to see what I had to say about using it as a full-time laptop)

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One Response

  1. […] the different ultra-mini laptops out there, head over to my earlier post on this topic called The New Ultra-Mini Revolution. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)mm242: Campaigns and Lightweight Laptops « […]

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