The Eee PC Revolution (What Killed Netbooks?) - Krazy Ken’s Tech Talk

The Eee PC Revolution (What Killed Netbooks?) - Krazy Ken’s Tech Talk

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- The Eee PC sold 5 million netbooks in little over a year and this tiny computer pioneered the netbook boom, or do I dare say, revolution. But today you hardly ever hear anyone say the word netbook. So, what happened to this industry fad and what happened to the Eee PC? (upbeat music) Hey everyone, how are you all doing? If you're new here, welcome. My name is Krazy Ken and there's gonna be a lot of Eee's in today's episode so buckle up. The Eee brand lasted for many years and even today, it still seems to be something a lot of people love.

Even the name sounds friendly, Eee PC. But to understand what Eee truly achieved and to understand why it faded away, we must go back to the beginning. ASUS. ASUS or ASUSTeK Computer Incorporated, if you want to be formal, was founded in Taipei, Taiwan in 1989 by former hardware engineers at Acer.

Huh? I always thought the name sounded familiar. The ASUS name is derived from the Greek mythology creature, Pegasus, which symbolizes wisdom and knowledge according to ASUS. Wait, we can't show this unnamed cartoon here. We don't want Hasbro to sue. (tense music) At first, ASUS made motherboards for PC manufacturers, but in 1997, they released their own laptop, the P6300, but we're still 10 years away from the Eee PC.

And the Eee PC's goal was to not be the typical size of your average laptop, so that means it wouldn't be classified as such. We need a name for this category of product. Since the 1980s, several companies were creating subnotebooks, laptop computers which were more compact than a typical laptop. So did Apple with the PowerBook Duo line and the eMate 300. But these subnotebooks were not heavily focused on the internet and no one was calling them netbooks, but that was soon to come.

In 2007, the One Laptop per Child organization, which I covered in another episode, was gearing up to release a super affordable laptop for developing countries named XO-1. And in March of the same year, Intel launched the Classmate PC, a Celeron and a system with a similar education-oriented goal for developing countries. Internet connectivity was a big component of OLPC's and Intel's initiatives with these new laptops. So eventually, compact internet-ready laptops started spreading and ASUS wanted to take advantage of this opportunity but they thought instead of focusing on developing countries, why not make a product for regular consumers in developed countries? So on April 16th, 2007, an ASUS official revealed some juicy details in a telephone interview with Taipei Times.

They said ASUS is working with Intel to tap into the budget PC market. And on June 5th at Computex, it finally happened. ASUS officially revealed the Eee PC, which some called a sub-subnotebook or a mini laptop. Yeah, the netbook term was not common yet. The Eee PC's goal was to give users a computing experience where it's easy to learn, easy to work, and easy to play. Hey, three E's.

ASUS expanded on the E's by saying the Eee PC was also an excellent internet experience and excellent on the go. The low cost was also appealing. Reports were speculating the price would be between 200 and $400. Then on October 16th, 2007, the first ever Eee PC model 701 officially launched in Taiwan and it launched in the US on November 1st for $399.

And that's exactly what I have here. So let's take a closer look at it. But wait, I'm receiving some breaking news saying ASUS is planning to release an Eee PC desktop in 2008. Well, that's pretty cool. So they weren't just focusing on netbooks, huh? I'll have to keep my eye on that.

The Eee PC's design is super compact with a slight wedge shape and prominent hinge. The laptop is merely 8.9 inches wide, 6.3 inches deep, and 0.7 to 1.25 inches thick. And it weighs only two pounds. That's as much as two one pound weights. The Eee PC's display is a seven inch TFT LCD, which supports an 800 by 400 resolution and above the display is a 0.3 megapixel webcam,

and the microphone is on the bottom near the track pad. And on the left and right are large speaker grills. But the actual speakers only take up a tiny portion of the space and I have no idea why the speaker hole pattern on the right is smaller than the left. Audience, what do you think? In terms of I/O, we have 10/100 Ethernet, a 56K modem, a USB 2 port, a microphone hole... or jack, and a headphone jack. On the other side is an SD card slot, two more USB 2 ports, a VGA port, and a Kensington lock port. And on the back is the power connection.

And no matter how hard you look, you're not gonna find an optical drive on this thing. It was just too darn small to fit it in there but it's only a matter of time until pretty much all laptops got rid of optical drives anyway. It's time for specs. The Eee PC came with an Intel "Celery" M ULV clocked at 900 megahertz. It also had 512 megabytes of RAM which can be upgraded to two gigabytes under this panel with two screws and four gigabytes of flash storage.

Eee PC also came equipped with 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, but no Bluetooth. And for the battery, ASUS claims the Eee PC can last for about three hours on a single charge and the battery is easily removable from the back. So that's the hardware but now we need some software to run on this thing, right? That's where Xandros comes in. Xandros is built on Corel Linux, which is based on Debian.

The system was bundled with an easy mode interface built on IceWM, which used tabs for navigation and large icons for launching applications. Again, this was to help focus on the easy aspect of the computer. Not everyone who needs a computer is tech savvy but if you are, you can enable a full KDE desktop, but you need to use a few terminal commands to make that happen. My black Eee PC is running Xandros but my white one is running Haiku R1/beta4 simply because the previous owner had it installed. And I enjoy using it because it's kind of unique and I don't think I've actually used Haiku on actual hardware before. I've always virtualized it.

And of course I have to use my new Aurora wallpaper on it. That looks very nice. Feel free to download it for yourself. But the Eee PC didn't just stop at Linux. In October 2007, ASUS made a deal with Microsoft to bundle Windows XP Home Edition. And starting in March 2008, you can now buy an Eee PC with Windows XP pre-installed for the same 399 price, which was a pretty big deal because frankly, that's pretty much what everyone was familiar with.

Everyone used Windows. Even today it's still pretty popular. Also, if you didn't have Windows XP pre-installed, the Eee PC user manual provides instructions on how to install Windows XP on your laptop should you choose. So now we're in December and I already thought the 399 price point was quite generous, but ASUS wanted to go even lower. Introducing the Eee PC 2G Surf, 800 megahertz Celeron, 512 megabytes of RAM, not upgradable, and two gigabytes of flash storage and it can be all yours for 299. Not a bad deal.

With this 2G Surf name to prevent confusion, ASUS renamed the original 701 to the 4G and know the 2G and 4G have nothing to do with cellular connectivity, it's just a shorthand for the storage capacities. Four gig, two gig. Now, on paper, the specs didn't seem super impressive even back then but it was the small size internet readiness and especially the low price that made it appealing.

And in the first five months, ASUS sold 1 million units. I'd call that a good start. ASUS was truly kick-starting a new product category, which back then still wasn't generally referred to as a netbook but in hindsight, it is a netbook. These are netbooks.

This is what ASUS was doing. They were kick-starting the netbook boom. In 2008, ASUS launched a plethora of new Eee PC products with various screen sizes and price points, and for gamers, the Eee Stick. ASUS projected 5 million unit sales by the end of 2008. And did they do it? No.

They achieved a pathetic 4.9 million units. Come on, ASUS. You were so close.

What the heck happened in history that prevented you from hitting your goal? - The signs were everywhere but now it's official, we are in a recession. - Oh yeah... the housing crisis. If it weren't for that, I'm sure ASUS would've hit the 5-million goal. But something else happened in 2008.

This is when the term netbook started spreading. Before we discussed that, however, I'd like to talk about something that affects your health, my health, everyone's health. And here's a fake British guy to tell you about our generous sponsor for today, Laifen. - [Jony] At Laifen... we always thought industrial design

should apply to the things you use every day. And while our design is radically new, face it, it's the most attractive toothbrush you've ever seen. Our goal was to keep it instantly familiar and we achieved this goal with the Laifen Wave. - Thank you fake British person who is totally not me.

I'll talk about the Laifen Wave features in a moment but for now, let's just take a look at the design. If Apple ever makes a toothbrush, it would look like this. Wave's proprietary servo system helps clean deeply without hurting your gums, and it's driven by a 6.1 watt motor compared to two watts in many other toothbrush motors.

And the bristles oscillate 60 degrees, much more than 13 to 18 degrees like you get on other brushes. (spits) And the brush vibrates 66,000 times per minute, which is about double what you get on other brushes. The Laifen Wave also supports magnetic charging. It really feels like Apple's MagSafe.

It's also IPX7 water resistant. And if you really want to customize your experience, you can use the Laifen app to adjust the vibration strength and the oscillation range and speed. So check the links in the description to get your own Laifen Wave right now. And another cool feature, replacement heads are only 9.99 for a three pack. So go ahead and click the link in the description to get your own Laifen Wave.

And when you do that, you're also supporting the Computer Clan so thank you very much. All right, let's dive into the origin story behind the term netbook, and we'll also see what other surprises ASUS has for us. There's not a super clear origin story for the word netbook. The New Oxford American Dictionary says the word originated in the '90s as a portmanteau of internet and notebook.

Others will say it was introduced in October 1999 when Psion used the word in a press release. Behind the scenes they actually filed the trademark on December 18th, 1996 in the USPTO. But early origins aside, the word started spreading much more rapidly in 2008 because Intel was using the word while they were announcing new chips that were made specifically for compact wireless enabled laptops. Soon, the general public started referring to small laptops as netbooks and even Intel themselves referred to the Eee PC and XO-1 as netbooks, despite the term not being commonly used back when those products were new. As the word's popularity exploded, Psion still held the trademark, despite not actively using it in any marketed products. And I don't know what happened behind closed doors but apparently Psion and Intel could not agree on who should own the word netbook, because Intel sued Psion demanding they cancel the trademark because the word has become generic.

And then Psion countersued Intel to the tune of $1.2 billion. Come on guys, can't we just all get along? (bell dings) Oh, you did. Thankfully, Psion and Intel settled. Not sure if there was a financial component to this deal but if there was, it was undisclosed.

And according to the USPTO, the trademark was officially canceled on July 9th, 2009. So, the word netbook was handed over to the people and I think that's fair. This trend was exploding.

Do I dare say, we were in the middle of a laptop revolution and multiple companies wanted in on it. We needed a word to define this product category, and netbook fits beautifully, but netbooks were just the beginning for the Eee brand. How about a desktop? On August 11th, 2008, ASUS launched the Eee Box in the United States for $349. It was a small desktop computer with an Intel Atom processor and an 80 gigabyte hard drive.

There's usually a door on the front that covers the I/O but mine doesn't have that. Sorry. Behind the front door is some of the I/O. There's audio in and out, two USB 2 ports, and an SD card slot.

On the back is a DVI port, two more USB 2 ports, ethernet, power, a Wi-Fi antenna jack for the included antenna, and a split of jack for digital and analog audio. You could use the included stand to place the Eee Box on your desk or you could use the optional shelf to mount it to the back of a monitor. You know, I'm just flipping through this manual and this chat icon looks awfully familiar, doesn't it? Hmm.

Actually, no, no. I don't see it. Unfortunately, some units shipped with malware on them. It appears this only affected Japanese units but ASUS issued a recall.

According to various reports, Symantec said the virus is likely the W32.Usbalex worm which they report as a very low risk. But I'm not done yet. Introducing the brand new ASUS Eee Top. The Eee Top was ASUS' first all-in-one touchscreen PC and it was released in November 2008 in Taiwan and in the US on March 9th, 2009 for $599.

It featured a 15-inch LCD touchscreen and an optional ATI Mobility Radeon HD3450 if you need more beefy graphics. The Eee Top also comes preloaded with ASUS software like Eee Cinema, which is a media center application. There's also Eee Bar, which is a dock-like application launcher. And look at that, easy mode just like on the original Eee PC 701. There's also Eee Memo which functions like a physical memo board with sticky notes. You can scribble notes with your finger or with a stylus.

Ah, this makes me nostalgic for the WOW Computer. Remember that? And this brings us to a very unique model of Eee product. This is the Eee Keyboard PC and I think it's one of the most fun products ASUS ever made. And apparently they're kinda rare because I couldn't find one for sale online.

So I blasted out a message to my viewers asking for leads and I got one lead. But sure enough, it led to success. One of my generous viewers all the way from Australia, no wait, Austria, found one at a local flea market and sold it to me. So huge shout out to Floriegl.

This design is reminiscent of retro computers where the whole computer was built into a keyboard form factor like the Commodore 64. The Keyboard PC was first introduced at CES 2009 but it didn't launch until early May 2010 for $599. This system used an Intel Atom processor and it featured a five inch touchscreen in place of a numeric keypad.

It also had HDMI and VGA for video out. The touch screen could function as a track pad for the Windows system but it could also run independent applications like this RSS reader and this typing game, you could also control the screen by moving your mouse cursor off the right side of the Windows desktop, and it would magically appear on the touch screen. So ASUS was expanding the Eee brand into multiple different product form factors. And as for netbook from all brands globally, sales passed $12.8 billion in 2009 alone.

So it was growing and this is where we come to 2010, which was a significant year for this because the computing industry was about to go through its next evolution. And on January 27th, Apple made a big announcement. (whooshes) Steve Jobs took the stage and announced the first ever iPad, Apple's first tablet device. Yes, the iPad was not the first tablet computer in the world, other ones existed but they were not widely adopted by the market yet. The iPads set out to change that.

And not only did Steve announce this new tablet, he also poked fun at netbooks. - The problem is netbook aren't better at anything. (audience laughing) (audience applauding) They're slow, they have low quality displays, and they run clunky old PC software. - I believe it's fair to say Apple wanted to squash this netbook market share and invade it with iPads instead. And maybe they were onto something because in the first day, they already sold 300,000 units. It looks like people might be gravitating towards tablet soon.

But because it was a growing market, other companies wanted their own chunk of it. ASUS was already preparing for this because they announced the Flip Book PC at CeBIT in 2009, which had dual touchscreens, but it wasn't for sale at the time. In fact, ASUS didn't launch an iPad competitor in the US until April 21st, 2011. And by that time, Apple already sold almost 20 million iPads. But hey, you miss all the shots you don't take, right? So at least ASUS was gonna try.

And on April 21st, 2011, ASUS launched not an iPad, but an Eee Pad Transformer for $399. The Eee Pad Transformer is an ARM-based Android tablet, which was originally gonna run Windows, but they changed their minds. The tablet came in a bronze-ish metal finish with a 10-inch IPS multi-touch panel with a resolution of 1280 by 800 and Corning Gorilla Glass. ASUS likes to have fun with textures and patterns, I've noticed.

So on the back, we have this, I don't know what exactly you call it but I think it looks and feels very nice. On the inside the Eee Pad is powered by a dual-core one gigahertz NVIDIA Tegra 2 ARM system on a chip with one gigabyte of RAM. The Eee Pad also has a 1.2 megapixel front camera

and a five megapixel rear camera, mic, SRS sound speakers, a gyroscope, GPS, and it runs Android 3.0 Honeycomb with a custom launcher. My tablet is running Android four instead of three and I've become a little nostalgic for the, you know, those late 2000, early 2010 user interfaces where the icons and everything was just more glossy than it is today. Good times.

So why Transformer? What exactly makes this thing a Transformer? Well, the ASUS Eee Pad sold with an optional accessory, a docking station, and it had a built-in keyboard and track pad. The docking station also offers two USB ports and an SD card slot, and it extends the battery life up to 16 hours compared to 9.5 without it, and it's sold separately for $149. I think it's pretty cool you can use a mouse cursor on this tablet because not even the iPad had that feature built in at the time.

So this tablet was kind of a laptop as well. The doc even has a hinge, so you can close it like a laptop computer, and I just think that's pretty neat. Then in December, ASUS launched the Eee Pad Transformer Prime. Wait... really?

ASUS, you have the name Transformer and now you want to add Prime to that? You're not worried about getting sued- And that's exactly what happened! Hasbro sued ASUS over the name because Transformers and Optimus Prime. I guess, the Hasbro lawyers just had nothing to do that day. We need to find somebody to sue. The products didn't look anything like giant transforming robots so I don't really see the big deal. And apparently the judge didn't either.

Shortly after, in ASUS' favor, a California federal judge denied Hasbro's motion for preliminary injunction. This was definitely not like the eOne story I covered earlier. Moving on, the Prime offered 32 gigabytes or 64 gigabytes of storage, a 12-hour built-in battery, and an eight megapixel rear camera. It was also the first tablet to ship with a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 ARM system-on-a-chip and it was only a hundred dollars more than the non-Prime. In 2012, ASUS continued selling tablets but they ditched the Eee branding. Oh no, don't tell me it's gonna die.

It's going to die. Son of a b- ASUS launched a new tablet on July 16th, 2012, named Transformer Pad Infinity. I'm not a huge fan of products that have eight syllables in the name but you do you.

(box clack) Time to bust out the unbranded facial tissues because this is where things get a little bit sad. 2012 was the last year of the Eee brand as a whole. (whooshes) In February 2012, ASUS released the final Eee PC series netbooks. Meanwhile, global netbook sales continued to decline.

They peaked at 32 million units in 2010, then dropped to 21 million in 2011, then 14 million in 2012. The industry was changing and consumers gravitated towards different products, which weren't Netbooks. Tablet sales were exploding with the iPad being the market leader, selling 32 million units in Apple's 2011 fiscal year and garnering 51.7% global market share.

In the 2011 calendar year. Rewinding to December 2010, Google was also cooking up something new. It was netbook-ish but maybe better, depending on who you ask. Google launched a pilot program for a new laptop named Cr-48, which ran a new operating system, Chrome OS. This would evolve into the Chromebook.

And 2011, Google launched the first Chromebooks in partnership with Acer and Samsung for $349 and $299 respectively. Chromebooks offered larger displays and full-size keyboards compared to the typical netbook but they still sold for a comparable price. But in 2012, US Chromebook sales were starting kinda slow but they still broke 400,000. But in 2013, they surged massively and Google sold over 1.76 million units. During that same year on January 1st ASUS officially ended production of the Eee PC. And since the Eee brand was already dropped from the tablet line and other Eee branded products were not receiving updates, this marked the official death of Eee.

For a while. Much like a rockstar who's just not quite ready to throw in the towel, ASUS relaunched the Eee brand but it wasn't Eee PC or Eee Pad or any of that stuff. No, it was EeeBook. The EeeBook X205 is an 11-inch laptop pre-installed with Windows 8.1 with Bing and priced at $199.

ASUS continued updating the EeeBook line until 2017 when they phased out the Eee brand again, this time in favor of the existing VivoBook line, which they've been selling since 2012, and they're still being sold today. And sadly, this marks the true death of the Eee brand. But it's not all bad.

It's a vague estimate but ASUS likely sold tens of millions of Eee products overall. So that's nothing to sneeze at. And ASUS is still selling many non Eee products today, including motherboards and laptops, and the company is worth $11.5 billion.

And it's likely this netbook revolution helped boost competition in the tablet and Chromebook space, which hundreds of millions of people use today. Thank you ASUS for the Eee PC and for igniting the netbook revolution. And thank you everyone for coming along and learning about this stuff with me. I like sharing these stories with you. Also, feel free to subscribe and stay tuned because my Ai Pin episode is coming up next.

Catch the crazy and pass it on. (upbeat music) Okay many of my viewers were making DankPods references on my post, so I guess I gotta say the thing. EeePeeCee... Gosh, that sucked!

2024-05-29 03:06

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