The Apple Mini has some serious competition at last, and it has turned out to be the Asian company Asustek, once derided as a mere ‘box-shifter’, that has revitalised the concept.

It’s the forthcoming Eee Box, the desktop version of the Eee PC laptop that has stormed the low end of the market.

The Eee Box will appear in the UK in August, with much the same spec that was announced some weeks ago, namely a 1.6GHz Atom N270 chip, 1Gb of DDR2 RAM, a 80GB hard drive, and booting either Windows XP or Linux.

Buyers will also get Draft 802.11n fast Wi-Fi, something few conventional PCs bother to include at any price, Gigabit Ethernet as standard, and card reading slots to handle a plethora of flash card standards, including SDHC. The Splashtop (ExpressGate as Asus calls it) ‘instant-on’ system will also feature.

Prices are expected to be around the £250-£350 mark, a pretty tough mark for PCs to match and still keep technology current. Most cheap beige boxes throw out at least two or three nice-to-have features.

Let’s see how the Atom chip holds up under processing load, but it is my suspicion that this concept will have some long-term influence on the evolution of the the previously unremarkable business PC. There is also the trend to virtualise desktop images, which will squeeze the over-priced, over-specced PC from the other end by turning them into ‘terminal lite’ devices.

These devices come will much the same security challenges as conventional PCs – they run the same browsers, and XP is hardly a secure environment, even now. Time for Linux then? Let’s hope it’s not got as many holes as they say, or it could turn into the next XP.

There’s a o nice picture of the Eee Box here. It’s really a pizza box rather than a cube box, but no matter…