I read with interest Ben Armstrong's post about his Asus Eee Pc 4G. I've long been casually interested in ultra-portable computing devices, and this thing looks like a real winner. Solid state storage means fast boot times and no worry about failed mechanical parts. The specs look decent for the price, and I'm sorely tempted to buy one for myself. Amazon sells the Eee for $399.
We've decided to get the twins laptops for Christmas this year, and I immediately thought of them as I reviewed the Eee specs. Small, sturdy, low-power consumption, and it runs a free-as-in-speech operating system! I think the kids could easily enjoy using something like this, as it should support all of their major activities: word processing for school, email and web, YouTube (and presumably Club Penguin), and I could install a JVM so that they could play RuneScape. I'd feel a lot more comfortable with them using something rugged like this as opposed to a traditional laptop with a hard drive that is susceptible to the not-always delicate handlings of a 10 year old.
I also thought, briefly, about the One Laptop Per Child XO laptop for the kids. In November the project is running a Give 1 Get 1 campaign, whereby you buy two laptops: one for yourself and one for donation to a kid in Africa. I think the XO laptop would be a lot of fun to use personally, but I think it's a little too do-it-yourself for my kids at this time: they've grown up using computers, and have certain expectations about what they can do with them. It's not clear to me that the XO would satisfy their YouTube and RuneScape requirements.
Finally, for $100 more, I can get a name-brand traditional laptop. Best Buy currently has a Compaq for $499, complete with 1GB RAM and 120GB hard drive. It comes with Microsoft Vista, but that should be easily remedied (although I'd try to boot an Ubuntu LiveCD at the store to confirm hardware compatibility before purchasing). A traditional laptop computer would probably be the best choice for the kids, as much as I'd love to see them use something more unique. After all, 7" is quite small and probably not the best long-term choice for a general-purpose computing device.