The new Asus Eee PC has been released to many positive reviews and great consumer interest. A streamlined and customized Xandros and KDE interface combines with other free software applications, a slim form factor and an attractive price point. HotHardware.com was one of the very first sites to
review the Asus Eee and report back on this new device. Read on for an interview with Editor-in-Chief Dave Altavilla and his thoughts on the Asus Eee PC and its value proposition.
Please give us the history behind
(Reasons for site creation, etc).
That's a fairly loaded question there Wade but I'll try to
be brief. HotHardware.com has been in existence now for
over 8 years. My vision was fairly clear from the beginning
but certainly has evolved over the years a bit to what we're
all about today. In the early stages, I felt passionate
about computing technologies (like many of our readers of
course) and in a general sense have always loved the
creative writing process. Mix these two interests together
and you have the makings of a Tech Journalist I guess. In
these earlier days of the net, things were just ramping up
so it took a while before some of the major OEMs saw the
value of Web Media. Our industry has come a long way since
then; from our initial classification of being considered
just "early adopters" and "enthusiasts", to now what many
major OEMs consider as valuable trend-setters and critical
"user expert" feedback resources, in addition to being very
influential members of the press.
About a year into it I met my good friend and now Managing
Editor of our site (aka the Backbone of HH), Marco
Chiappetta. With Marco on board we gained what I would call
critical mass and it has been upward and onward ever since.
We're currently one of the top sites in our field and are on
virtually every major first-round product launch roll-out to
the press with all of the top-tier OEMs and board partners.
In short, life is pretty good!
How does HotHardware differ from other hardware sites on
We try to walk our talk, so to speak, to the best of our
ability. We position ourselves at a consumer-targeted site,
whether you consider the enthusiast, novice or IT
Professional looking for valuable input. Of course, since
you can't be all things to all people, we try our best to
take the middle ground and appeal to the broadest scope of
the available readership in our industry as possible.
As such, we offer detailed analysis and evaluation of
leading-edge products and technologies in computing and
adjacent markets, in what we like to think is cleanly
presented, easily digestible chunks. That is to say that on
HotHardware, you will not see a horrendously long,
over-the-top with technical drivel style article, nor will
you see what is essentially a regurgitation of marketing
hype that amounts to nothing more than a fluffy commercial.
Instead we strive to offer our readers a down-to-earth,
professional perspective on the "out of the box" experience
with any given product or technology. OK, so this thing has
2X the memory bandwidth and 4 times the processing
horsepower, so what does that mean to the reader? We try to
be very clear on the "moral of the story" and not stray too
far into minutia but at the same time provide thorough
coverage of the salient points, good or bad, of each
product. We also try to hit this watermark in our breaking
industry news content as well.
Who are the typical readers and forum posters for
Out audience is made up of Computing Enthusiasts, early
adopters of tech products and IT professionals. We also
have a fair number of computer newbies that come to our site
to learn a few tricks and possibly get assistance on upgrade
suggestions and other buying decisions.
Are hardware enthusiasts more likely to have an interest
in different operating systems and software?
Absolutely, these people are not afraid to get down and
dirty with their setups. If there's a perceived advantage
to a new part of their total system solution, they're going
to investigate it and prove it out. We have lots of readers
that run dual boot setups of Windows and Linux packages.
recently reviewed the new Asus Eee PC. Can
you summarize your findings?
The Asus Eee PC is a breakout product in many ways. First,
of course it's a highly portable PC that has many of the
significant capabilities of a full sized notebook. It has
the form factor of a UMPC, with the usability of and
functionality of a much more substantial machine.
In addition, the Linux-loaded version we tested has such an
amazing complement of software applications, that you get
the feeling the machine has all you need to utilize it to
the fullest of its capabilities. It's stable, highly
functional and perfect for people on the go, students, or
even as a first kid's PC. I think moving forward the
product will see some explosive growth in the end user
community, especially with the open source crowd and modders
that will do some impressive things with it. There's a
Windows XP capable version in the works as well, so we're
In the review, you wrote "this product has been easily
the most researched and searched-upon product in the HotHardware.com
content database in many years." Why do you think people
have been so interested and intrigued about this product in
Well, primarily because it's an ultra low-cost,
ultra-portable PC that comes with a ton of software
pre-installed. It's a full-up computing platform at a
killer price-point. It also appeals to many user types,
from professionals looking for an unobtrusive machine to
take notes on in a meeting, to kids in grade school learning
the ropes for the first time on a PC.
How does the Asus Eee compare to the
OLPC XO-1 notebook or the
Intel ClassMate PC?
How do the different target markets for these devices reflect in their respective
hardware and software choices?
This is definitely an interesting and debatable topic. From
my early perspective, to me the XO-1 definitely caters more
directly to children. That's no surprise obviously, since
that's the whole premise of the OLPC program. The Intel
Classmate is similar in this regard, however it's much more
a kin to the Eee PC, architecturally with respect to
motherboard and processor design which, like the Eee PC, is
an Intel Mobile Celeron design. Regardless, comparatively,
the XO-1 and Classmate PC look and feel much more toy-like
versus what Asus built, which is essentially a classic,
sleek design of an ultra-portable notebook. The Eee PC
should have much more broad-market appeal as a result.
With lower and lower price points on devices like these,
is freely available software becoming more important from an economic
I think so. At least it should be. The pre-installed Open
Office, Firefox and other open source software products that
are on the Eee PC, are a huge advantage for the system.
Integrating all that functionality for free should offer
much more competitive price points when you consider the
entire package and bundle being purchased.
In the case of the OLPC XO-1 notebook and the Intel
Classmate PC, how important is it that the software is free from a
I don't know about philosophies but both of those systems
are budget PCs target to kids and need to be very cost
efficient solutions over all. Parents, schools etc don't
want to have to worry about buying and loading up additional
software to get their children up and fully functional on
the machines. Obviously, it would be pretty pointless if
either OLPC or Intel were to develop a machine that would
have a total cost of ownership somewhat higher than the
initial price tag. Again, for kids in third-world countries,
the primary target market for these machines, you need a
shrink-wrapped total solution with as little configuration
and optional purchases required as possible. It's common
Simplified desktop UIs are nothing new. How does the
Asus Eee succeed and how does KDE play a part in that
To be perfectly honest, I'm not an expert user by any
stretch of the imagination, when it comes to Linux
interfaces and distros. The experience I had with the Eee
PC was fairly "pure" in that I was looking at the machine
with a fresh, somewhat novice end-user perspective. I mean
we've tested literally thousands of systems, notebook and
mobile devices at HotHardware, most all of which were
configured to run a Windows operating system of some sort.
As such, we're VERY comfortable and fluid power users with
Windows OS setups, so a KDE-based interface running Linux
was a bit of a departure for us. In this regard, on a
certain level, we could have been very harsh critics about
the OS configuration, its performance and functionality on
the Asus Eee PC. Regardless, we were all very impressed
with the streamlined, easily navigable KDE-based UI. In
fact, it all seemed very natural and super intuitive. KDE
and Asus developed the OS specifically for the Eee PC and
you can definitely see and feel the forethought that was
put into it.
Looking forward, what changes do you see in operating
systems and software based on your experiences with
I think, if there's one thing we've learned over the years,
whether you consider open source OS solutions, Apple OS or
Microsoft, it's that end-user simplification of the UI needs
to continue to evolve. If there's a shining example of
things to come, it's probably what Apple has done with the
iPhone and iPod touch. The average end user doesn't want to
"tinker" like we like to do in the labs here at
HotHardware.com. They want to just boot up (and quickly),
run their requested program and not worry about anything.
In short, it just works and it doesn"t take any learning
curve to work it. That day is coming. The question isn"t
if but when.
Any advice to the KDE community?
Advice? Me? I wouldn't claim to be able to offer you any
words of wisdom but certainly words of encouragement are in
order. Keep up the great work and keep doing what you're
doing. When a product with such huge, sweeping appeal, like
the Asus Eee PC, is showcased with a KDE interface at the
helm, you know that's a lot of good exposure and there's
significantly more critical mass behind the community in