An Eee PC For Business

What will be the first company to bring the Eee PC mentality to the business world? I believe it’s only a matter of time before it happens. Let’s consider this thought a bit more closely and I’ll back my opinion that the Eee-PC-for-business may not be much of a stretch.
Intel recently launched a couple products aimed at just this sort of low-power, low-cost device, in the form of the Menlow platform and the Diamondville processor for the Shelton platform. There’s a high probability that even ASUS will eventually switch over to either the Menlow or Shelton platform for their Eee PC (or future renditions).

ASUS’s success with the Eee PC and Intel’s recent launches have driven many manufacturers and vendors to investigate the market. MicroStar International (or perhaps better known as MSI) already has a design for a competing product. Meanwhile the large OEMs, such as Dell and HP are also considering offerings.

Currently, all these products are aimed at the consumer market and with good reason. Individual consumers are typically the ones that have seen the need or at least want to have a small, cheap and portable internet device. Most mobile business users would already have a laptop or advanced handheld device. So why do I think business is a market to be attacked?

Well, first off, computers are getting to the stage where the vast majority of business functions will perform fine on current hardware, or even older hardware. While companies such as AMD and Intel are showing the benefits of multi-core for streaming media, while burning a DVD, and writing an essay, it’s a bit less clear but for business users. The majority of business users write documents, check email and use an internet browser. Not exactly resourcing hogging tasks.

There are several advantages to bringing the Eee PC concept to businesses. They include decreased hardware acquisition costs, increased mobility (and hopefully productivity) for employees and decreased power consumption.

There are things that will obviously increase the price of a business-oriented product versus the consumer Eee PC. Build quality would have to increase, software licensing costs would need to be included (like it or not, most businesses still use Windows and some commercial email system), and a different service and support agreement. However, this should still result in a computer well, well below $1k, which is more than can be said for most business laptops in use today.

At many companies, employees are getting laptops as opposed to desktops. They’ll come included with an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse along with a docking port so that they can have the feel of a desktop while at their desks but can also get up and go to meetings with their resources at their fingertips. Now bring the cost of doing this down, and many more users will mobilize, hopefully increasing productivity. Needless to say, front line employees, such as sales or consultants would benefit from even more mobility. I’ve seen some of the laptops issued to business users – they’re better described as ‘luggable’ as opposed to mobile.

Finally power consumption can be decreased. Intel and AMD are all touting performance per watt increases, launch after launch, but in the end, power consumption remains very high, and far higher than is necessary. The Silverthorne processor that makes up a part of the Menlow platform is targeting far less than a 5.5W TDP. Total platform power consumption should be well under 10W at full load. A typical desktop tower alone may consume 100W or more, and that’s assuming low load. We’re looking at a 90% power savings for something that is more than sufficient in terms of performance. Performance per watt is a nice marketing metric, but what use is it when performance isn’t as important as it was in the past? Decreasing power consumption will help reduce operating expenses. Plus, it makes for a nice marketing bullet and keeps Greenpeace happy.

I believe the big question is who will bring this product to market first. I doubt it will be companies that derive a large portion of their revenues from businesses, such as Dell, HP or Lenovo. Their current business market garners much higher margins than what I’ve proposed would provide. Instead, I believe it will be someone like ASUS or MSI, which don’t have large presences in the business market, and have little to lose.

As the new category of cheap sub-notebooks matures and more and more consumers acquire the devices, businesses will begin to take note. When Joe Smith, CEO, comes home to his kids playing on a cheap, mobile sub-notebook, he may think, ‘Why can’t I equip my employees with these?’ And he’ll be right. I believe there’s a big opportunity here.


2 Replies to “An Eee PC For Business”

  1. A friend bought one last semester and I had a chance to play with it. I wrote my thoughts here – but in short, unless you’re really after the portability or have very little money to spend, I’d look at something else.

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