It's increasingly clear why laptops come in the weight and shape they do. The minimum configuration has a good chunk of weight to it (screen, full size keyboard, some kind of pointing device, a bunch of slots on the side to connect stuff through, power supply/battery, hard drive and optical drive). People don't like it when their stuff breaks, so beefing up things makes a _whole_ lot of sense and adds further to the weight. Which is why in order to make something smaller in a breakthrough kind of way, you have to do radical things like use flash for the hard drive (and accept the drastically smaller amount of space on that drive -- never mind that you can now for $40 buy an SD card with 8 gigs and in my post-college working life a gig of drive space was a refrigerator sized object from DEC -- so not even telling the I'm-such-an-aging-geek stories. Normal people now _know_ what a terabyte is, which is just fantastically bizarre), eliminate the optical drive and do sordid things to the keyboard.
Interesting set of design tradeoffs. I was confident I could adapt to the Asus EEE keyboard, but the whole number keys thing is really making me nuts. R., by contrast, complains constantly but was happy to use the Asus last night for several hours browsing the web. Wacky.
It's not clear now precisely what I'll be using the optical drive for, other than to save us (effectively, R.) the headache of sharing a drive off the upstairs PC and using that to install stuff onto the ASUS (an at-home, occasional activity). Another use is traveling so you can watch DVDs on the ASUS and I have yet to figure out if that makes sense, given that R. will still be bringing his laptop. *shrug*