Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Windows XP on the Asus Eee PC

The Asus Eee PC is a Ultra Mobile Computer designed by Asus last year. It’s a tiny device, smaller than a piece of paper, and barely an inch thick. Weighs less than two pounds. I want one.

Traditionally, they’ve been Linux devices, and to date you can still only buy the Linux version. They use a custom version of Linux, but Asus has made drivers available so that any Linux distribution can be used, provided you can fit into 2, 4, or 8 GiB. I’m wanting one for anywhere browsing, some minor hacking, and blogging.

Microsoft, of course, has no desire to allow the Ultra Mobile Computing world to go Linux. They’ve been trying to get on the One Laptop Per Child project since it’s inception, they were able to become the primary OS on Intel’s Classmate. And now, they’ve managed to get Windows XP working on the Asus Eee PC (though you can’t buy it with WIndows yet).

Microsoft put a video up on Channel 9 detailing some of the technical parts involved in getting Windows XP running in this environment that was rather unthinkable at XPs inception. It is somewhat of a testament that, aside from some drivers, XP required very little changing to work in this environment. Of course, it takes at least 1 Gigabyte for the Operating System (not including IE7 and Windows Media Player 10). That’s half the storage on the lowest end model of the Eee.

To help Hardware and Software integrators, Microsoft has published some guidelines. In general, the current crop of ULPCs are well within the specs for Windows XP, and as long as applications are more careful about how often they write to storage, there really isn’t too much to be changed.

I can see some people wanting this. I don’t, but I can see some people desiring it. Personally, I just don’t see the point. I can get a full system, with web, office, media, etc in at least the same space that Windows wants for just the base operating system. And unlike Windows, Linux doesn’t want me to compress the disk (check the guidelines, page 6).

That’s right, because Windows takes up so much space, Microsoft wants you to add disk compression. They say that it will only increase your CPU usage by 1 to 5 percent. Of course, what they don’t tell you is that you’ll see a similar decrease in battery life, but I suppose that fact just isn’t important.

Actually, my biggest problem with the whole damn thing was how self-congratulatory the Microsoft guys were about the whole thing. Frankly, if they had been unable to get XP running on the damn thing, it would have been ridiculously embarrassing. The fact that they’ve had to continue to support Windows XP on Ultra-lights. It seems that this fact is embarrassing enough, that Vista’s replacement is practically just around the corner, which should also spell the end of Windows XP.

For those that desire it, the ability to run Windows on Ultra-Light computers like the Asus Eee PC is pretty nice. In my opinion this development only reduces the value of these hardware platforms, by leaving less usable space to the user, and reduces what the system can be used for. With Linux on the device, I can comfortably do some programming with it. If I only had the 2 GiB Eee, I’d be hard pressed to install the OS and any Dev tools with Windows. Admittedly, I’m not Microsoft’s target market with this development, but I’m guessing that most users who are buying Eee’s simply won’t bother trying to replace the stock Xandros OS.