I've been playing with the EeePC 901 as offered by Orange for 'free' on a mobile broadband contract.
Now, I am not sure that tying yourself in to £24.47 a month for two years is necessarily a wise move. Two years is a long time in both mobile broadband and netbook terms. Actually, even a quarter of that is a long time.
Orange reckons the 'free' EeePC 901 is worth £350, but I found it on the web for prices around £250. Even that lower price is a lot of dosh in these constrained times, so maybe plenty of people could be lured by the all-in price, notwithstanding that for £14.68 a month you can get a USB dongle with the same 3GB usage cap and shove that into whatever notebook you choose.
A quick rough and ready reckoner says that over 24 months of the EeePC contract (the dongle is an 18 monther) the difference between the two contracts is:
24 (months) x £10 (per month) = £240
Enough, in fact, to buy an EeePC or shop around for something else.
Having said all that, I do rather like what Orange has done. The EeePC 901 with its 8.9-inch 1024 x 600 pixel screen, 1MB of RAM and 16GB of SSD storage isn't exactly a workhorse, and its keyboard, though well built, is cramped even for my little hands.
But Orange has made the best of it. This includes adding a PDF reader, Microsoft Works and Star Office to the EeePC right out of the box, and building a neat little SMS manager which works nicely and even rings like a telephone when a message arrives.
The Eee PC 901 itself is a neat little device. Weighing 1.1KG and supplied with a protective pouch it runs Windows XP with ease and has three USB connectors, microphone and headphones sockets, monitor connector, Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
So yes, I like it, and it'll probably accompany me on my Christmas travels. But I'll also be taking my 'real' notebook, and therein lies the rub. Many of us still need a more powerful machine, and whichever way you do the sums, you're going to have to justify the spend on a netbook, with or without mobile broadband attached.