Feeds

Ten ancestors of the netbook

Doomed category has a long history thanks to Atari, Poqet, Psion et al

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Asus Eee PC 701 and the "new" netbooks

Finally we come to the first proper netbook - as Intel defined the term. Asus’ Eee PC was demo’d at the June 2007 Computex show in Taipei, Taiwan, and pitched as a handy, ultra-portable adjunct to a regular computer. The first Eee PC sported a 7-inch 800 x 480 screen surrounded by a large bezel - Asus soon used the extra space to install a 8.9-inch panel. There was 512MB of DDR 2 memory onboard - plenty for the Xandros flavour of Linux the Eee shipped with - and 4, 8 or 16GB of solid-state storage, with an SD card slot for more.

Asus Eee PC 701

The 225mm x 165mm machine packed in VGA output, 10/100Mbps Ethernet, 802.11g Wi-Fi, and three USB ports. While the reduced-size keyboard was useable, the tiny 45mm x 30mm trackpad was a strain for adult fingers. Yes, it ran Linux, but it was a highly customised version, and users were soon working to cram Ubuntu onto it or even Windows XP - which could be pruned to fit onto the 4GB flash drive with enough room left over for documents.

But then the darn thing did only cost 220 quid.

Lack of an upfront Windows option, the small screen and compressed keyboard did put off adult buyers, though, and Asus quickly responded with models with larger displays and keyboard, plus hard disks to accommodate Microsoft’s OS. That brought in greater file space, though the addition of Windows and delicate storage did move the Eee PC line away from the netbook ideal of cheap and almost throwaway computing for all.

Asus Eee PC 701

Because you demanded it

Asus’ early success - not to mentioned encouragement from chip giant Intel - led to a profusion of netbooks from all the major manufacturers of Wintel kit. Acer’s original Aspire One won a solid fan base, as did Lenovo’s S10. Dell’s Mini 9 was for a time a hot item among Linux lovers because its hardware was well supported by the major distros, which was not always the case with many of its rivals.

The Mini 9 also proved one of netbooks most compatible with Mac OS X guaranteeing it many a buyer keen to have a highly compact Hackintosh. Apple, of course, resisted the trend, preferring to tout its 13.3in MacBook Air sub-notebook - the successor to 2003’s popular 12-inch MacBook Pro - as a better alternative while keeping mum about the product that would really push against the netbook: 2010's iPad.

Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh

The Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh

The modern media tablet was born, and the netbook was almost immediately cast in shadow: yesterday’s tech for yesterday’s user. Chunky, slow and with a low battery life - unless you had a clip-on booster pack that added weight and girth - there was no way the netbook could compete with the more fleet-of-foot, instant-on tablet. Only its keyboard gave the netbook an edge.

Still, it has endured. The iPad arrived in 2010 and dominated 2011, yet netbooks continued to sell. Only in the last year have most manufacturers pulled the plug on their netbook lines, and I suspect many users will keep their small, cheap computers going for many more years yet.

That's a testament not only to this later generation of netbooks, but also the vision of the palmtop computer pioneers all those years ago. ®

Maker Asus
Introduced 2007
Discontinued 2009
Price £220

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Apple takes blade to 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
Shaves price, not screen on mid-2014 model
iPhone 6 flip tip slips in Aussie's clip: Apple's 'reversible USB' leaks
New plug not compatible with official Type-C, according to fresh rumors
FEAST YOUR EYES: Samsung's Galaxy Alpha has an 'entirely new appearance'
Wow, it looks like nothing else on the market, for sure
YES YES YES! Apple patents mousy, pressure-sensing iVibrator
Fanbois prepare to experience the great Cupertin-O
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer
Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness
TV transport tech, part 1: From server to sofa at the touch of a button
You won't believe how much goes into today's telly tech
Apple analyst: fruity firm set to shift 75 million iPhones
We'll have some of whatever he's having please
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.