ASUS can be credited with founding the netbook market with its Eee portable. The success of the Eee then forced most all other notebook makers to enter into the netbook category with products of their own.
It's now been a full year since the Eee debuted and the netbook class couldn’t have come at a better time now that the economy is doing poorly and netbook sales are a large part of what is keeping the computer industry afloat. Laptop Magazine interviewed ASUS CEO Jerry Shen on the future of the Eee and what we might see by the Eee's second birthday. Shen says that to date four million Eee netbooks have been sold and he expects to reach five million Eee's sold by the end of 2008. That number is for Eee notebooks only and doesn't include the Eee Box according to Shen.
Touch-enabled Eee netbooks have been rumored for a while and Shen told Laptop that touch sensitive Eee systems would be available by early 2009. Real details on touch-enabled Eee's are not available. Shen did say that ASUS is exploring different form factors for the touch Eee. One possible form factor is a convertible tablet and the other is a standard notebook style with a touchscreen. The convertible design would make more sense for many users.
Several new Eee SKUs are coming to market to allow the Eee shopper to find a machine tailored to their individual needs according to Shen and more products will be introduced in January 2009 at CES.
When it comes to the most popular Eee models, Shen says that during the first quarters of 2008 the 7-inch Eee was the most popular. Entering into Q3 the 9-inch and 10-inch Eee models were selling very well including the 900, 901, 1000, and 1000H. The original 7-inch size still sells well according to Shen.
Laptop Magazine asked Shen if we would see 11-inch or 12-inch Eee notebooks and he said that when you get into sizes higher than 11-inch it becomes a notebook. Therefore, he doesn't expect ASUS will release an Eee with a screen over 10-inches in size.
ASUS doesn’t feel that the Eee is cannibalizing the sales of its more expensive laptop models. In fact, Shen says the opposite is true. The popularity of the Eee has raised consumer awareness of ASUS leading to better sales of other notebooks.
Some reports have claimed that return rates for Eee models running Linux are higher than returns of those running Windows. Shen says that he believes the return rates are about the same between Linux and Windows models. He also points out that ASUS offers Linux under Easy mode and that in Q4 2008 it will offer Windows XP with an Easy Mode as well. Easy Mode makes operating XP easier by giving a simpler interface to new users.
When asked about Easy Mode for Vista, Shen said he doesn't believe that ASUS will offer Vista on the Eee. However, Shen says that Eee's will be available with Windows 7 by the middle of next year. Some of the Eee models running Windows 7 will offer multi-touch capabilities, one of the few details known at this point about Windows 7.