Thursday, March 20, 2008

iPhone's biggest competition might be the ASUS EeePC

The iPhone has been a success up to this point largely because it is a computer in the form of a phone. The operating system is simple for the user to use and at the same time very powerful. A huge part of that is the Mobile Safari web browser which is often compared in usability standards with desktop browsers.

Because of this, the iPhone is getting Internet marketshare like no other phone in history. The problem for competing hardware makers and telecoms is that Symbian, Blackberry and Windows Mobile don't offer mobile users what they want in a mobile browser. Android isn't available yet and the iPhoneOS has a huge year plus lead when it does materialize.

A French wireless telecom might have the answer. The Eee PC.

SFR, last month, began offering the EeePC with a 3G USB dongle package for €199 down and €29/month. A very tempting little deal -- especially when you consider that it is about double of what the iPhone costs on Orange and double the monthly rate and includes 3G to the Orange/iPhone EDGE package.

SFR is France's second leading mobile carrier and it lost the battle to acquire the iPhone to France Telecom's Orange. At this point it helps to mention that SFR is partially owned by Vodafone which is also part owner of Verizon in the US. If the EeePC deal is successful in France, perhaps we'll see it pop up elsewhere?

While I am not even going to try to argue that the EeePC's OS is as good as the iPhone nor that the hardware is as convenient to carry around, I do think there is a market here. There are a certain percentage of people out there who may be happy using Skype on the EeePC's WiFi or 3G and having a Linux/Firefox browsing experience on a seven-inch display instead of the iPhone's three inches - with a real keyboard and trackpad to boot. You can even turn the EeePC into a little mobile 3G-Wifi bridge/router to share the wireless network with friends and colleagues with full sized laptops.

Upcoming advancements and competition in the EeePC's space may make things more interesting. Screen resolutions are going up, there is talk of WiMAX, and prices inevitably come down. The LinuxOS is always improving and there is a very strong community behind the EeePC. You can always throw WindowsXP (or even the MacOS!) on there as well. Who knows, maybe they'll even lose that unsightly 3G dongle for something integrated.

I am not sure how everyone else feels, but I certainly have been thinking more and more about getting on this bandwagon. I would have jumped on it already if I didn't already own an iPhone.


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