The Disposable Laptop

By David Strom Print this article Print

Here’s how you can stop worrying about your expensive laptop going obsolete: Go cheap and use online storage.

A friend of mine sent me a listing for a $300 Asus laptop over at Newegg:

Granted, this isn't the laptop of your dreams. You aren't going to run Photoshop on this, or even Windows: it comes with Linux. And it only has a 2 GB solid-state hard drive. But it is tiny, it is light, and it ushers in a new class of what I like to think is the disposable laptop. Corporate IT managers take note.

Are you tired of continually being burned with buying laptops in the +$1,200 range that go obsolete even before they arrive on your loading dock? Even at a $1,600 price point, it doesn't take much more than a month or two before HP and Dell and Lenovo "refresh" (isn't that a wonderful euphemism for "you just got screwed on that deal") their laptop lines with something with more CPU firepower, more RAM , more disk, and more graphics.
My 20-something computer-savvy stepson was bemoaning this fact recently to me, and he paid about $1,000 last year for an HP laptop that has a beautiful screen but not much of the real firepower he needs.

I once asked the guys from Lenovo why they couldn't make an inexpensive laptop that had a bazillion hours of battery with not the latest and greatest stuff on it, and they claimed that no one would buy such a machine. Let's see if Asus can prove them wrong.

It makes sense to buy something that you can expense, throw away (or give to your users to keep as their own) or replace within a year. Think of how much money you currently spend on the fancier laptops that break down, get lost or damaged. Dribble some soda in its keyboard? No problem! Tossed from the overhead luggage bin by mistake? You can pick up another one tomorrow for not much more than a nice dinner.

Ok, the one spec that troubles me is the 2 GB disk. For another $100, you can double that, or buy a USB thumb drive that has plenty of room for your files. Do we really need 100 GB drives to carry around all of our personal data anyway? Everything is going online, and just the other side of the browser lies the untapped riches of the Internet, your corporate data, and all that.

Why do we need all that room to store email messages since 1994, when there are perfectly good Webmail solutions that take up 0 GB of local storage?

And what happens when these laptops get stolen from the airport X-ray belt, or from our hotel rooms, or in my case from the trunk of a parked car? Better to have something that we just don't care too much about to begin with. And let's face it, most of the room on our laptops is storage that isn't work-related anyway: vacation videos, MP3s, and so forth.

Plus, with the Asus, you don't have to pay the Microsoft poll tax of Windows/Office. Yes, I am sure that there are some corporate standard documents that aren't going to like the Linux-based open office, but so what? Deal with it when you get back home.

Sure, I lust after the sleekness of the MacBook Air (but not its lukewarm specs), the solid tank-like construction of a Lenovo X-series, and the compactness of my Dell X-1 (which is now getting a bit long in the tooth).  

But the Asus has my vote when it comes to a no-brainer purchase. And it even comes in several colors, including pink! How can you not want one right now?

This article was originally published on 2008-01-28
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