Right now, there seems to be at least one tech company that is incredibly positioned to take advantage of the crappy way we all feel about the economy -- and that would be Taiwanese computer maker Asus.
Not even a year ago, I stopped in at the Intel booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and the Intel (INTC) folks showed me a prototype of a new Linux-based, tiny Asus laptop that ran on Intel's new low-power, low-price Atom chip. When they told me it was supposed to cost between $300 and $500, I almost flipped. And Intel seemed very excited about the possibilities.
Here we are now, and Asus -- which has been getting attention all year for its low-priced EeePC line -- just came out with a $299 machine it's selling at Best Buy (BBY) The latest PC industry numbers from Gartner Group make it clear that this low end is where the big action is. The big guns of the PC industry -- H-P (HPQ) and Dell (DELL)-- don't have anything in that segment. If the economy stays down and people seek low-cost alternatives to the usual $1,000 laptops, this could act as a slingshot for Asus.
Not to mention Linux. So far, Linux on PCs has been a non-starter. But Asus and other mini-laptops may be the vehicle that puts Linux in front of Joe the Plumber types of users. Sounds like a whole new challenge for Microsoft (MSFT)...