The Netbook Competition Continues: Enter Lenovo

Have you thought of adding a netbook to your portable computing arsenal? I’ve been using Linux-based Asus Eee PCs at home now for months, and like them very much. Today, Lenovo announced that it is entering the netbook space with its small, light $399 IdeaPad S10 models. We covered the news over on the Ostatic blog, and if you’ve been thinking about getting one of these, you have more choices now than ever.

As I mentioned in covering the news of Lenovo’s new systems, I think Lenovo will have to move away from its stated initial strategy of offering Windows XP on the IdeaPads. Linux and open source applications are the way to go on these portables. Here’s what web workers should consider before shopping.

Configuration-wise, the Lenovo netbooks aren’t much different from what Asus, Acer, HP and others are offering in this space. The Lenovo IdeaPads do offer hard disks with reasonable capacities (80GB and 160GB), though, so if you’re shopping for one of these systems, evaluate whether you need that or not. If you don’t you can get an Asus Eee PC for well under $400.

The real issue with these systems, though, is software. I don’t think Lenovo will be able to stay cost-competitive in this space without embracing Linux and open source software. While Asus is offering Windows-based versions, its big successes have come from the Eee PCs running Linux. They include OpenOffice, Firefox and a whole slew of open source applications.

Asus is also offering Linux-based netbooks, with its Aspire One machines, priced below Lenovo’s machines. I’m not going to be surprised to see the most price-competitive versions of these systems come down to the $300 range, through use of open source software.

Are they worth owning? After putting Asus Eee PCs through lots of paces, I think they are excellent as Wi-Fi-ready machines for browsing and light work. I would pick something more robust for my primary notebook, but you can inexpensively place these systems around your home for convenient use, and they’re fine for tasks such as writing while on the go. They’re also all in the two-pound range. It’s good to see healthy competition emerging here, but I think Lenovo is going to have to join the open source crowd here if the company wants to compete on the basis of price.


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