In the case of the Acer notebook, rumoured to be an Aspire model with 1GB RAM and 80GB hard drive, it's a sobering thought that this computer is also rumoured to come pre-loaded with Windows Vista Home Basic. This suggests that there is room to shave at least a further $50 off the price if Acer releases a Linux version of the box.
Almost as if to confirm this, Everex has gone on the record as saying that it plans to bring a sub-$300 Ubuntu-based notebook to market early next year. Acer should take note.
And that brings us to the question of Windows. Although it would be tempting to take yet another cheap shot at Microsoft for successfully emptying our pockets for two decades, the company has actually done a fantastic job at popularising computing through Windows - much more so than Apple. Many if not most of us now know how to use mouse-driven GUI computer systems, surf the net, send emails and use basic office productivity packages.
The problem with Windows (other than its cost) is that it has become so bloated, bug ridden and malwares prone, that it requires computers with multi-core processors, multi-gigabytes of memory, dedicated graphics cards and massive amounts of storage just to provide average performance. Thus, despite Moore's Law and dropping processor prices, consumers still pay through the nose for systems that should have been commoditised a decade ago.
Thanks to the Internet, the open source and Linux movements, the commoditisation of computing is upon us. Google has taken the wind out of Windows sails on the Web, free open source software equivalents to costly Microsoft packages, such as OpenOffice, Evolution and The Gimp are bundled with Linux distributions and the community appears to have put up Ubuntu as the consumer Linux distro of choice.
Anyone who has played with Ubuntu will recognise that it's no more a Windows clone than Maxc OS X is a Windows clone. However, if you know how to use Windows, then you should have little trouble with Ubuntu.
The deal clincher, however, for most consumers, gamers aside, considering a pre-installed Ubuntu computer - other than the low cost - should be the fact that the systems already come pre-installed with most of the applications they already need. I won't even go into the security (and as a result further reduced cost) advantages that using Linux provides compared to Windows.
Having played with the latest version of Ubuntu (Gutsy Gibbon), I can say with a degree of confidence that it would be fairly easy to configure a plug and play system that meets the needs of most consumers using only an entry level hardware configuration. Everex has tried to do this with its $199 gPC.
The true test of whether computers have finally become consumer commodities is whether Walmart shoppers are capable of ignoring years of Microsoft marketing hype and give the Everex a try. If computing bang for your buck and worry free computing are issues, then it should be a no brainer.