I let this one slip by this past week, but Lindows has a new coup, to go with the $199 PCs at Wal-Mart: a $799 subnotebook.
What to think about it? It’s an odd mix. It offers high-end features like USB 2.0 and Firewire built in, and a generous 256 MB of RAM. But it has an underpowered VIA C3 processor. Its three-pound weight would be very nice.

But for $799 you’re not getting everything you’ll probably want or need. There’s no CD-ROM or floppy at that price. So if you’re looking for a cheap notebook to load another OS on, you won’t get there for $799. By the time you buy an external CD-ROM, you’re awfully close to the price of the getting-to-be-famous Sotec, which you can sometimes find now for $799 after some rebates. While the Sotec weighs 4.4 pounds, it has everything you’ll need to load another OS on it, and it comes with Windows XP Home, which makes me wonder just how much you’re saving by not having to pay the Microsoft tax.

The laptops Lindows compares it to aren’t really a fair comparison. As a performer, this subnotebook really isn’t in their league. Comparing it to a PDA isn’t exactly fair either. I can’t speak for the PocketPC devices, but the thing I like about the Palm I carry is that it’s an instant-on device. If I power it down with my task list onscreen, the task list comes up when I power it back on, and it comes up immediately. I’m sure with the right distro this laptop could be tweaked to boot in 15-20 seconds, but I don’t want to wait 15-20 seconds to boot up and see my calendar.

I think if it were priced at $499 or even $599, they’d sell tons of them. But the only advantage it offers over the cheap Sotecs is weight.

Skimping on the design would cut some cost, but the obvious places to skimp–a good starting point would be to lose the Firewire and USB 2.0 and offer plain old USB, drop the memory to 128 megs and drop the CPU to 800 MHz–would probably only shave $50 off the price.

To me, the Sotec is much more appealing. There will probably be an initial surge in sales due to pent-up demands for a lighter notebook and/or a notebook with a Linux derivative preinstalled, but I expect them to cool pretty quickly once people realize the Sotec is the better buy.