Technology moves fast, having spent a bit more than £200 just about a year and a half ago on an Asus Eee PC (left) I'm pretty surprised that I still use it. With it's tiny seven inch screen, cramped keyboard and weedy processor, it was hardly a revolutionary set of parts but what it became was a revolutionary product. Using a fairly lightweight linux build it can still pull its weight in most situations, the screen is still tiny and hard disk (4gb!) restrictive but connectability, small size and durability make up for a lot.
Roll on 18 months and just over £200 buys a multitude of new and much faster netbook in a massive range of styles and colours. Based on the same ideals of the originals, just on a few steroids, it's a whole different proposition. The hard disk for a start is 40 times bigger, the processor is die shrunk, faster and cooler. Even better news, the keyboard is almost a normal size, touchpad well proportioned and battery capacious (up to eight hours compared to Eee's 3 hour maximum). Oh, it'll run XP Home or Windows 7 happily as well.
The newer netbook on the right, a Samsung NC10, has got all the standard bits, Intel Atom, 1gb of ram, 160gb Hdd, blueteeth and wireless LAN (almost goes without saying but really it's the most important part). Sadly it's not for me, I'll have to pay for my own. It's a birthday present from the parents for my sister, I've spent a few hours installing all the useful programs and removing the load of junk (McAfee anti-virus of all things) pre-installed with the OS. I'm seriously considering replacing my Eee, most likely with a newer version as the build quality from Asus has been good to me. Whether it will be worth waiting for a Windows 7 version most likely comes down to cost. If the price is the same and with only a couple of months to wait for the new and supposedly superior OS it should be worth a look.
What these netbooks and wireless internet access have conspired to do is change almost every practise from a decade ago. Back then I used to use (the awful) Microsoft Encarta '95. On a slow desktop with 56k internet it was a bloody struggle. Now it's Wikipedia (other occasionally unreliable online encyclopaedias are available) on your lap. What could be better than that?