Update – 10/30/2008: Looks like I’m going to have to eat my words on the biggest point of this post … HP apparently will be releasing a Linux-based (specifically, Ubuntu-based) alternative OS for the new Mini 1000 in January. Hat tip: Geek.com
HP Mini 1000 with MIE: This model is just like the one previously mentioned except that it runs HP’s Mobile Internet Experience shell over Ubuntu. This model will not be available in January and it will start at $379.
A $20 savings isn’t all that impressive, but my point revolves less around money than it does choice. At least there’s some OS choice in the works – now if only my display choice made a difference to anything except the size of the plastic frame!
Our friends Hewlett and Packard may be a little late to the party, but they’ve finally come out with another perhaps-more-serious entry in the “netbook” computer category. Light on horsepower but heavy on weight-savings, the netbook niche has been emerging as an entire class of scaled-down notebook computers that put portability on the top of the trade-off heap. They’re typically heavily network-oriented, intended for web surfing, e-mail, light document work and the like.
So how did HP do with their new Mini 1000 series? In this author’s opinion, not terribly well.
There are a few things that irk me about the Mini 1000 when you set it aside entries in the segment from Dell, Acer, Asus (makers of the now-iconic EeePC, a copy of which is my lovely wife’s daily driver) and others. To start, the entry-level price is a touch high for a netbook; we paid $50 less for Kelly’s windows-powered EeePC, and you can get versions (more on that in a sec) of the machine for under 300 clams. Ready to go. At BJ’s wholesale club.
Aside from the price, the screen is my next bone of contention. HP has seen fit to offer two different screen sizes: 8.9″ or 10.2″ – but, inexplicably, they both offer the exact same resolution: 1280×600. Why would I want to pay fifty bones extra for a screen that’s essentially just a magnified version of its little brother? I want to actually fit more on the screen. I can see offering a same-resolution larger-size screen for those whose vision may be compromised, but given the target market for netbooks – tech-savvy people who probably work on more-normal-sized PCs all day long – I don’t think throwing in a few extra DPI on the pricier display option is really going to anger too many people.
But the biggest problem with the new Mini 1000 from HP? No OS choice. You get Windows XP with Service Pack 3, and you’d better like it. While HP seems very adept at following other manufacturers into the netbook form factor, they’ve done a dismally poor job of following the industry into offering a Linux-based netbook OS. Instead, buyers of the Mini 1000 can’t even opt-out of the Windows offering to install their own OS – they’re stuck paying the $50 (or whatever it is these days) for a copy of Windows they don’t want or need.
The bottom line: HP could have done a lot better. They’ve got a sexy-looking little netbook for us, but they’ve burdened it with a bloated, insecure OS – the computing analogue of towing a boat with your Ferrari. Sure, you can weld a trailer hitch to it, but all the reasons you bought that nimble, perfectly-balanced piece of hardware in the first place are going to go right out the window. Meanwhile, the screen falls squarely into the “nothing special” category, and the price hit the market already-beat.
I’d say better luck next time, but HP can still turn this one around. Get your engineers on it, and in a few months we’ll check back and see if you’re offering us any real choice.