The MacBook Air, love it or loathe it, is a design classic--that is why MSI, Olidata and Dell have taken a stab at replicating their own versions. The latest attempt to do so comes from the netbook PC master itself: Asus. And for a netbook machine that comes from the same design stable as the horrendously ugly early EeePCs, it's a pretty good effort.
It's called the Eee PC 1008HA, and it's designed almost as smooth and sleek as the original Air itself--there's even that same gently-tapering edge, and wedge-shaped main body. Okay, so it has a plastic frame rather than Apple's swish unibody aluminum body, but it's at least likely to come in a number of glossy colors. It's an inch deep, which is a full third fatter than the 0.76-inch Apple machine, but still pretty narrow. It does weigh just 1.1kg though, which is a chunk less than the Air's 1.36kg.
Inside there's a 92% scale full keyboard, 10-inch display, large multi=touch trackpad and something dubbed the "instant key" that apparently gives easy access to Wi-Fi settings and touchpad locking (we're locking touchpads now?) There's also a 1.3 megapixel webcam a "digital array microphone" that makes it sounds like it'll incorporate some snappy noise-canceling, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There's also mention of WiMAX and "3.75G" technology--we're presuming that means there's simply some built-in 3G broadband tech.
That's about it for specs--Asus is keeping lots of detail close to its chest, with all the machine's ports concealed by flush-fitting hatches in the PR shots, so we don't even know what it'll connect to. They do at least show a conspicuous Windows key on the 1008HA's keyboard. We're betting it'll pack an Atom CPU and run towards the higher end of the Eee range of costs.
With this new machine, Asus does raise an interesting question for Apple. If even the leading manufacturer of netbook PCs is cloning the look and feel of one of your very high-end laptops, isn't it about time you rethought your stance on not entering the netbook game? Particularly with next-gen Atom chips hitting the market sometime later this year?
Probably not, though you can be sure someone somewhere in Cupertino is busy prototyping and testing something like an Apple netbook. Apple's just finished homogenizing its range of consumer PCs into being high-performing devices with similar CPUs and GPUs, and though the upcoming Snow Leopard OS is expected to seriously reduce the storage and processing burden of OS X, which might make it more suitable for the netbook environment, it's specifically designed to maximize the potential of multiple-core Intel chips--and there's no dual-core netbook Atom chip yet.