So at Sony's Open House we were having lunch with Mike Abary, Sony's US SVP of Information Technology Products Division, who oversees Vaio computers (among numerous other things). Of course, the inevitable question came up about the Eee PC's success thus far, and what that means to computer companies on the higher end of the spectrum, like Sony. Mike's response was a little surprising, but certainly sensible enough: if consumer expectations begins to weigh too heavily toward the $300 end of PCs, he believes that kind of consumer adoption would have a profoundly negative impact on the industry, referring to its effect as "a race to the bottom."
We know there are a lot of Eee fans in the house, but the man makes sense. Sony isn't trashing ultra-cheap machines so much as recognizing that it's hard to push things forward when your primary objective becomes making the very cheapest possible machine you can (and not very best). Innovation is hard enough to subsidize, but when your already thin margins flatten even further in trying to sell ultra-cheap machines, it's easy to see the economics working against tech companies. (Asus has less to worry about here because its primary business is making PCs for other companies.) Of course, the reality is that ultra-cheap machines probably won't soon envelop the lion's share of computer sales and threaten what most think of as "real" PCs, so we probably don't have to worry about the industry bottoming out because of the Eee. False advertising and abusive trialware, however, are different stories entirely.