Lately, the computer industry has decided to shift its focus to a slightly younger demographic. No, it's not those technology-loving college kids, or even those teenagers with infinite knowledge of the Internet. Instead it's middle-school kids – ages six through 12.
The world's largest PC manufacturer, HP, recently announced the release of its new Mini-Note PC laptop – a small, rugged, light and cheap computer designed primarily for children. More likely than not, HP's decision to produce the Mini-Note is a direct result of the success of Asus's Eee computer. Since its initial release last year, Asus's Eee PC has become a top seller. The miniature device with a 7-inch screen (referred to by the company as a "super mobile Internet device" rather than laptop) carved its own niche by taking aim at middle-school children. But, as is the case with any invention that finds unexpected success, the crop of imitators are now beginning to trickle into the marketplace.
Still, HP is certainly the biggest company to jump into the mini-notebook market thus far. And their Mini-Note does offer more features than the Asus Eee. The Mini-Note has a larger (9-inch) screen and a sleek and sturdy anodized aluminum shell. It has a scratch-resistant display and the keys are coated with a protective finish. The HP Mini-Note keyboard is also bigger than the keyboard of the Asus Eee – making it easier for adults to use too. For additional durability, The Mini-Note incorporates HP 3D DriveGuard, which sends a signal to shut down the hard drive upon sudden movement or shock (like being dropped). Other advantages the Mini-Note has over the Asus machine include Wi-Fi capabilities and a USB drive. The Mini-Note is about $ 100 more than Eee on the lowest end however, with a retail price of $ 499 (and more advanced models priced at over $ 1,000).
Along with providing some competition for Asus, the Mini-Note is also an attempt by HP to crack the education market – one of the few markets the computer giant does not own. Both Dell and Apple provide more computers to schools then HP, putting the company in a distant third. HP also recently announced the development of the Teacher Experience Exchange, an online resource where teachers can access tutorials for teaching technology in the classroom. Along with the Mini-Note, this initiative is intended to help put the HP name on the minds of educators.
By gearing the Mini-Note specifically to middle-school children, HP hopes to boost their share of the education market and, hopefully, experience the same success as Asus. For now, it'll be interesting to see whether the more stylish Mini-Note is able to take a bite out of the cheaper Eee's sales. Either way, both products will face stiff competition in the coming months as more companies attempt to cash-in on the mini-laptop craze. Intel (who actually beat Asus out of the gate with its Classmate mini-computer) will soon be releasing the next-generation Classmate, which has a 30GB hard drive and, like the Mini-Note, a 9-inch LCD screen. And, rumor has it that Acer will be next in line, releasing its own mini-computer with a lower price than the Eee.
Though not yet available in stores, the HP Mini-Note is available for purchase at the HP Web site.