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2007's most important IT lesson is spelled with an Eee

There's not much doubt in the office that the most significant product for business IT this year has been a consumer device which is small, white and personal -- and it's not even from Apple.While the iPhone is jolly nice and sector-defining, it doesn't change the rules of the game.

There's not much doubt in the office that the most significant product for business IT this year has been a consumer device which is small, white and personal -- and it's not even from Apple.

While the iPhone is jolly nice and sector-defining, it doesn't change the rules of the game. The Asus Eee, however, does - and in more than one way.

First, it emphasises the importance of 'good enough'. The processor, the 900MHz Celeron M 353 ultra-low voltage, is more than three years old. The screen resolution will be familiar to anyone who remembers laptops from ten years ago. It's just 802.11g, and the keyboard would have done adequate service on a home computer from the 80s. And while it's extremely modern to have a solid state hard disk drive - and the Eee concept wouldn't work otherwise - there's no more in there than you get in a matchbox-sized MP3 player these days. But that's enough. 4GB is enormous - that's thirty-two billion bits of information - and it's good to be reminded just what that means.

The Eee shows too just how out of date the 'is Linux ready for the desktop?' argument is. Yes it is. Anyone can pick up an Eee with its standard Linux distro - or with a number of freely available alternatives - and just use it. That alone revitalises the 'is this paid-for operating system value for money?' question.

Most importantly, though, it shows that extreme portability isn't something that can command a luxury premium - and that the industry's ingrained bias otherwise is both damaging and wrong. If you put a Samsung Q1 on a table next to an Eee and tell a wandering punter they can play with both but take away just one - they'll pick the Eee, without any consideration of price. The same's going to be true of those lumbering great affordable laptops that clutter up our shoulder bags. Just goes to show what happens when you design products for real people instead of for the marketing department's powerpoint fantasies.

With a few tweaks - an Eee with a bigger screen is going to be the least surprising IT announcement next year, with the arrival of flocks of clones from all sides a close second - the platform is going to become the easiest purchasing decision for any business looking to make its employees more productive. It won't be an only computer for most, any more than a mobile phone is the only phone most people have at work, but it will be everyone's second. It may even become everyone's second laptop - but it will be the one that gets used first, whenever there's something to be done away from the desk.

At the price point, the worries about insurance and lost devices will be much allayed, and the platform is powerful enough to do useful work when disconnected while lending itself to all manner of web-based services - which, for security and support reasons, will become the most popular way to use the thing in the enterprise.

It's neither expensive nor difficult to add these capabilities as overlays, however your enterprise IT is currently configured, and with the Eee there are good reasons to do so. CNet, like most companies, is largely built around Microsoft infrastructure and our standard desktop is XP; I have no problems whatsoever in doing just about everything that needs to be done under Ubuntu on an Eee, effectively in parallel with whatever's going on on my desktop. Document flow, resource access, email, the lot.

Anyone who's wondering what sort of support implications flow from this approach can find out for themselves for £220. I strongly encourage CIOs everywhere to buy one for everyone in their department - or at least the ten most switched-on bods, at any level - and just watch what happens.

And at some point, as these experiences spread, the realisation will dawn that this is actually a very cost effective, low maintenance and reliable way of working.

Then, things will develop fast. Next year's three-year-old technology will be a year's better than today's, and with Intel pouring enormous resources into cheap, low-power processor and system design there'll be plenty of room for this particular way of computing to expand in all sorts of directions as it becomes increasingly important.

It's a bit small to be a horse, but the Eee makes a most capable Trojan pony.