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Budget laptop, big impact

Budget laptop, big impact

Asus Eee PCs appeal to families and users who want a second laptop.

The low-end Eee PC laptop from Asus might be small, but it’s had a powerful impact on the Australian and New Zealand computer market since the Taiwanese manufacturer launched the device late last year. The Eee PCs appeal to families and users who want a second laptop.

Asus New Zealand retail account manager Wendy Wood says the laptops are ideal for students as they are very robust, lightweight and come pre-installed with features such as Windows XP and wireless internet access.

“A low price point of $599 for the seven inch model and $749 for the 8.9 inch is also ideal for schools. In Australia, some schools are now including the Eee PC as an item on the goods list for parents.”

Asus and Microsoft recently teamed up to present three Eee PC classroom roadshows in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. The roadshows were aimed at schools interested in improving ICT capability by applying for the program.

The Eee PC classroom program is designed for personalised learning in a school environment using the laptops. She says a high school in Wellington is trialing the Eee PC laptops and has been very pleased with the product.

“At the roadshow in Wellington we had several people from the Ministry of Education department attend so I’m confident we can generate plenty of interest,” says Wood.

Across the Tasman, IDC figures show sales of the Eee PC alone increased the size of the Australian PC hardware unit shipments by about 1.6 per cent in the last quarter of 2007, compared with the previous three months.

About 1.09 million PCs and laptops were sold in Australia in the last three months of 2007.

IDC associate market analyst Felipe Rego said that the first model of the Eee PC had sold steadily since late 2007 and was boosting interest in other Asus product lines. Rego said the manufacturer’s total share of the local PC market was rising and was now about 4.4 per cent.

“Its plans of keeping up with its models and also adding refreshed ones with higher specifications will most probably keep threatening established vendors,” Rego said.

Myer, which for some time had exclusive rights to sell the Eee PC in Australia, initially had problems keeping it on its shelves. Some stores sold out in the first few weeks of the launch.

Rego said the Eee PC’s success had not come at the expense of other manufacturers. Rather, the product had created its own niche where other companies had not offered products.

Companies have historically charged a premium for small and light laptops, but Asus kept its price below A$500 by using less-powerful hardware such as a slower processor.

“This type of product finds success with mobility-drive customers looking for online activities providing a more proper internet browsing activity than mobile phones or other types of smart phones, and a smaller form factor than fully featured, full-size laptops,” Rego said. “They are especially appealing for children of school age.”

When the device was launched, Myer’s national business manager for electronics, Neil Merola, said families buying the device for their children were driving the sales boom, although some early technology adopters keen to use the Eee PC as a cheap second laptop were also buying the device.

Asus will start selling a new model of the Eee PC that has a larger screen and other updated features. Asus may soon have more competition in the low-cost laptop segment, because rivals such as Hewlett-Packard and Pioneer are planning their own offerings.

Rego said fully featured notebook models were dropping in price, so Asus’ price advantage was getting smaller.

The federal government’s plans to put a laptop in the hands of every school student from years 9 to 12 should have a positive impact on devices such as the Eee PC.

© Fairfax Business Media

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