Video confession 16 – We look at the Asus Eee PC
The price and size of computing has been getting progressively smaller year by year but suddenly there has been a major change. Among the reasons for this are the scale of the market; the reduction in component costs; the use of free software such as Linux, the effects of the OLPC project on manufacturers and the developed world and the developing web 2 culture. All the factors have come together to create the conditions for a new type of computer to be successful – the low cost Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (Umpc).
There have been Umpcs before but they have often used miniaturisation to justify high prices or have not been particularly practical. However, Asus have created a huge impact with their Eee PC – a significant departure from standard laptop offerings – A £200 price point, all solid state (no spinning hard disk to slow things down and drain batteries), just enough local memory to get by on and the use of Open Source Software (although Asus now sell a version of the Eee PC running Microsoft software.
I find the Asus Eee PC to be very impressive
– A £200 price point means we can purchase in large numbers and achieve new effects by scale
– A £200 price point means that more users can purchase their own – helping with social inclusion and achieve new effects through personal computing.
– Small but useable- this size of computer is easy to carry around and is genuinely mobile
– Quick to start up – information and communication are far more pleasant without having to wait 2 or 3 minutes for the computer to let you get started
– Very easy to use – Everything you need for most tasks is already installed and is easy to use
– Fits well with the developing model of cloud computing where we use the net for applications and storage. The Eee PC is quick and easy to get on line and comes with icons to connect you to Google Docs for example.
– Can accommodate standard local computing – it comes pre-installed with Open Office for standard “Office” applications which are easy to use and compatible with Microsoft Office too.
Like all successful products it is in the right place at the right time – it is a perfect consumer computer for the masses. It feels less like a computer and more like a “gadget” something useable by a wider range of people than most computers.
I will be exploring possible applications for the Eee PC in education over the year. Some of the applications I will be looking at are:
– Use on external projects like work experience, trips and community use
– Use in non IT suites as an information appliance
– Use in new models such as allocating to individual students on various courses or projects.
In the video Richard dons a white lab coat to investigate the technical aspects of the Asus Eee and Penny talks briefly about the effect such technology can have in teaching.
Richard carries out a boot race between the Asus Eee running Xandros Linux and a standard tablet computer running Microsoft Vista. Before Richard has a chance to log in to Microsoft Vista he has used the Asus Eee to get on the Internet and Google Docs and to launch Open Office for wordprocessing. The Eee PC is about 30% cheaper than a standard laptop, 30% smaller and lighter and 30% faster to start and stop – 35 seconds after pressing the on button you can be surfing the net.
Penny from the design team talks about how the use of personal IT can change the nature of teaching and learning as information is readily accessible to students – opportunities for more research based learning are possible. Penny also talks about how more and more students have smartphones with which they can take pictures, send emails and browse the Internet.
When is a computer not a computer – It looks like we are in entering a new phase of computer diversity – it looks like 2008 may see the beginnings of some exciting new developments in education and IT.
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