Could the obscure and apparently discarded MeeGo mobile Linux OS yet save netbooks? Or is it the other way around?

Users quite liked netbooks but aside from one or two Asian vendors, laptop companies didn’t, fearing they were migrating users from expensive, over-power portable computers to less profitable and generally under-powered ones. Microsoft, no surprise, hated the idea because it rendered Windows moot.

With remaining netbook companies not sure what do next in the face of tablets and fashionable smartphones, Asus has used Computex to offer a glimpse of the intriguing Eee PC X101 that combines Intel’s Atom family with a Linux OS called MeeGo, all but abandoned by its sponsor co-Nokia when the latter decided to plump for Windows Phone 7 in spectacular fashion.

The specifications aren’t confirmed, but let’s take a guess from the unit Asus put out for demos and what is already known. It has a 10.1 inch screen, 802.11n Wi-Fi, a 1.6GHz dual-core N455 Atom, 1GB of RAM and probably an 8GB SSD. Extra storage can be added by USM or micro SD Cards, or by buying a 16GB SSD model.

Asus x101.jpg

The attraction of this machine is that it doesn’t run Windows, which partly explains the reported $200 (£120-£150) price tag and how it happily runs on such a modest platform. It also turns on instantly thanks to Intel’s own spec for doing that, allowing it to perform web-centric tasks such as browsing and document creation using open source tools. It’s very slim even by netbook standards and probably delivers 2-3 hours from its modest 3-cell battery.

Slim, cheap, long-lasting and it runs the world’s greatest operating heritage, Linux, what’s left to complain about?

The question mark is how many apps buyers of such a machine will be able to access, even with a bundled office suite and all the basics that come with all Linux distros. Bumping up storage and battery will also likely add at least $50 to the price.

The X101 could give MeeGo the toehold it needs to create a new niche of netbooks running the OS that should always have been used with this type of computer, Linux. But unlike the Linux-based netbooks that appeared briefly three years ago, MeeGo has more potential, and could attract developers to the fold. Who knows, it might even find its way back on to simple smartphones and tablets one day, a juicy irony surely.

You listening Nokia?