Eee won’t upend notebook market per se

Over at Crave, Erica Ogg notes the concern by Mike Abarry, who runs Sony’s U.S. Vaio group, about the threat of the Asus Eee, which sells for a fraction of the price of the average notebook sold in the U.S. Mike’s comments led to a broader discussion of that historically hazy device segment that fits between smartphones and laptops both in form and function. It’s also worth noting that he didn’t think the impact of cheap ultraportables would be so disastrous if they were used as secondary PCs.

In either case, I think he has little to fear from the Eee despite its initial success. Many of the early reviews of the Eee were enamored with its simple "big button" tabs, but not surprisingly you need to dig beyond that into a fairly unfriendly file manager even to move files to a flash drive. The 7" screen simply isn’t large enough to handle Web browsing or other tasks comfortably.

I see a bifurcation coming to this emerging area of inexpensive, touch-typable clamshells — computing appliances that will sell for less than $500 and function as PC complements and inexpensive ultraportable notebook PCs that sell for more. The latter class has more disruption potential for today’s notebook PC market, but really in terms of vying for dollars from other entry-level configurations with larger screens. The Eee has straddled the middle — a viable position for a category pioneer, but the heat will be turned up if HP brings the 2133 into consumer markets. Of course, cheaper wireless broadband would help both classes.