I'm not sure what the collective noun is for the "ultra portable" laptops that have proliferated so much recently, but given the cacophony they've generated I think "a gaggle" is appropriate. Over the weekend, I read of Acer's Aspire One, which appeared to offer the build quality and keyboard of HP's 2133 Mini-Note at the price of the Asus's Eee 901 (~£220, $395 stateside). Asus claims sales of nearly half a million of UMPCs and at last Dell seems to have lumbered into this space, with rumors of a $300 notebook (the Asus Eee was originally rumored to sell for $200). All these systems feature Intel's new Atom CPU (1.6GHz and "low power"), 512MB-1GB RAM, and 1024x600 displays and so would seem to keep us, and our sideshow 500MHz, 1GB RAM desktops (not even a display!), awake with terror.
The reason we sleep soundly is that with the exception of Asus, none of these vendors have bothered to tweak their Linux distribution for the hardware they so efficiently produced. HP grabbed OpenSuse off the shelf and dumped it on the Mini-Note resulting is a clumsy interface intimidating for any novice. Asus at least made some changes to Xandros and installed 3G drivers to allow you to "plug n play" a USB 3G modem - something a Vodafone team provided for them (and which you can now run on your E2 - download vodafone-mobile-connect-card-driver-for-linux_1.99.16_i386.deb from the Betavine site to use on your E2.)
Our aim at Aleutia is to provide an OS which is fully tweaked and optimized for our hardware spec and so renders benchmarks such as CPU speed less relevant.
Nevertheless, some of our customers would be better served with such laptops and their power consumption usually hovers around a respectable 20 Watts. We are working on both a low-cost laptop (Q1 2009) and an E2 with integrated 5.7" 800x600 touchscreen (Q3 2008), but we focus on micro desktops because they offer the advantages of:
Modularity - if your laptop display is cracked, you have a problem. With an E2 you can swap in a second-hand TFT or even a televsion.
Ruggedness - it's much easier to make a palm-sized desktop with no moving parts rugged
Much Bigger Screen, Much Nicer Keyboard - working on a compressed keyboard and 9" display sucks. Working on a 23" display and ergonomic keyboard (Microsoft is good at some things) is rather pleasant and, these days, rather inexpensive.
Portability - the E2 is half the size of any UMPC, save the fabulously expensive OQO. Sure you'll need a monitor, keyboard, and mouse wherever you go, but provided you're not a road warrior and just work from a few locations (Home and Office?) and are looking for a "one ring to rule them all" computer, it's a lot lighter than anything else you're going to see.
Those are the advantages I see for consumers. Most of our work is project-based and it's a lot easier to set up and network a lab with 50 VESA-mountable E2s than to secure the same number of laptops with 50 competing wireless cards.
Enough invective for now - back to Zigbee development.