Bundled Applications and the Operating System
In addition to Skype 4.0, bundled software includes Sun Microsystem’s OpenOffice-based StarOffice. StarOffice includes word processing, spreadsheet, database, presentation and drawing applications. StarOffice apps are able to save files in Microsoft Office 97-2003 format. If you and/or your users can overcome any Microsoft Office related biases, StarOffice or other free OpenOffice implementations will easily provide more than enough office computing functionality. Add Mozilla’s free Thunderbird implementation for email, and you’ve got a fully outfitted office computer for around $375 at the time of this writing.
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE Running Windows XP Home Edition
Well, there is one catch for business computing environments. The 1000HE comes with Windows XP, yes, but it’s XP Home. Computers running XP Home can’t log into or work easily within MS Windows domain networks. I have been able to access workstations and servers on my large, one segment test network, but I have to travel a tangled and winding road to get there. Because single domain logins are not possible, I’ve got to issue passwords for every device I connect to.
Because netbook vendors, including ASUS, see netbooks as simple home computers, netbooks aren’t available with Windows business oriented operating systems, such as XP Professional, that give you full access to domain-based networks. Netbook vendors don’t even offer such operating systems as upgrades. I have installed and successfully used both XP Professional and Vista Business and Ultimate, on my ASUS 1000HA. So, it can be done. If you use OS and application image cloning techniques to setup new business computers, you can certainly get XP Pro or another OS on your netbooks with some ease.
The cost of upgrading to a business oriented OS, of course, is another issue. If your company has licenses for your OS of choice, costs should be minimal. If not, upgrades could run you around $100 or more. That is, if you can find XP Pro, given that Microsoft has pretty much stopped selling it. Netbook vendors should work out a deal with Microsoft to make XP Pro available for their products, at least until Windows 7 is available. From my perspective, because its days are numbered, Vista isn’t an option for business-based netbooks.
There is, of course, another OS option, Linux. With Windows XP grabbing most of the action, fewer and fewer netbooks are available with Linux. My Eee 701 runs KDE’s very nice windows-based Linux workstation client OS. The 701 is bundled with OpenOffice and a ton of other apps, including Firefox and Thunderbird. Its mini-keyboard and small display aside, you can do serious business computing with it. It’s even possible to access MS Windows network resources, but it’s not always easy. If yours is an MS Windows shop, you and your users will probably find Linux workstation clients a bit daunting, at least at first.