Monday, June 16, 2008

The Asus eeePC. What does it's success mean for developers?

It's been a while since I last blogged, mostly because I've had quite a lot of - shock horror - work to do and just haven't had the time to do any blogging.

However things are quieting down and I'm back to see how many people I can annoy :-)

Anyway, I bought an Asus eeePC for my wife this weekend.

Her needs are very simple; she has a corporate application she needs to run (written in a 4GL called Magic) and she needs to be very mobile.

The Asus eeePC is pretty much perfect for her. The one caveat however is that her corporate application needs Windows. So after much googling I created a stripped down version of Windows XP using a utility called NtLite and managed to cram both Windows XP and her required application into the eeePC's little 2GB flash drive, with a decent amount of space to spare.

The eeePC really is a sweet little machine, besides the fact you can't but help smile when you see this little machine you realise quickly that it could so easily fulfill so many applications.

As I was trying to overcome some of the of the shortcomings of the machine it made me think about about some of the implications for me as a developer if the UMPC market segment takes off and I have to ensure that apps run on this class of computer.

There are a couple things I suddenly need to think about:

  • My company has standardised on 1024 x 768 as the standard screen size for all applications, this is going to cause a stir when somebody important tries to use the system via their UMPC.

  • Desktop apps suddenly need to be a little leaner than they have been in the last couple of years, on the 2GB machine, 100MB is a lot, this of course includes data. Gigs and Gigs of hard disk space are suddenly a luxury.

  • Referring to the previous point, it's also important to make the data more portable, embedded databases are useful but having to make the user perform some complex mount operation in order to run their database off a USB disk is no good.

  • If Linux ends up dominating this segment, then you can no longer say that the target OS on the desktop is going to be Windows (Not that, that ever bothered a Javaphile like me).

  • UMPCs are aimed primarily for Web access, this means the browser, JavaScript: say hello to your new, um, "female dog".

  • I actually question the value of RIA platforms here, if JavaScript/HTML is sufficient for 95% of my applications, and is the lowest common denominator anyway, do I really want the extra overhead of a RIA runtime?
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