When Asus launched its 7-inch, 1-kilogram laptop in October last year, few would have thought it would have made such a heavy impression on the consumer electronics world for such a lightweight device.

There are some that argue this new type of ultra-portable, the affordable sub-notebook, or "netbook" as they are increasingly being known as, are just a fad. I believe differently and think that the netbook is here to stay.

In terms of industry impact, it could be argued that the Asus Eee has made a massive impression. Aside from spawning literally dozens of rival products from manufacturers as varied as MSI and HP, it has made a big impact on both software and hardware companies too.

The success of the Eee was behind the reason for Microsoft's surprise announcement that it would continue to offer the Windows XP operating system past its shelf-life just for what the company calls ultra-low-cost PCs, or ULCPCs.

This was big news in the industry as Microsoft knew this would be jumped on by the tech press and described as a u-turn in a potential PR nightmare, especially considering the lack of popularity of Vista.

So why did they do it? Not just for revenue reasons - in order to avoid Linux getting a bigger toe-hold in this vital emerging market, primarily made up of young users.

And Intel, who coined the name "netbook", has designed and launched an entire chipset - the Atom processor - just for such devices.

Asus has sold one million Eees since their launch in October 2007 and plan to sell five million this year. So from a consumer point of view what has made the little laptops the success they are?

UMPCs have been launched before, but none so cheap as the Eee. Samsung's Q1 was £800 on launch, for example, which meant most consumers had an either/or decision to make as regards a full-scale laptop or the handheld device. Unsurprisingly, few chose the not-wonderfully-designed Q1.

The average consumer will only use a notebook, if it's a secondary or back-up device, for web browsing, email and a bit of word processing - all of which the Eee does with ease.

The beauty of the Eee is in its cheapness - the fact that it is affordable enough to justify buying as a secondary computing device - a laptop to take out and about, or for a child, has been a huge factor in sales.

The size of the gadget (although the 7-inch has been described as too small for man hands) is a key point too. An Eee is truly handbag-sized for female users, backpack-sized for kids and students and briefcase-sized for business users.

And other industry developments have made an impact too, add in a USB dongle for mobile broadband (increasingly cheap, easy and popular) and you've got a mobile office the size of a hardback book that you can get up and running virtually anywhere.

The Eee's tiny dimensions suit our busy, on-the-go lifestyles, you can get the Eee out on a bus and use it if you had to. It will fit on coffee shop table with ease, or it'll sit by the side of textbooks in the library - it is very light and very small.

The simplicity, not just of the hardware's design but of the operating system, is another reason for its success. It seems obvious that the Windows XP models will ultimately be more popular, but I see the popularity of the Linux-based Xandros build model as a consumer reaction against the showiness of current bloated operating systems.

Despite what Vista and Leopard offer, I believe an OS should not be showy, should do what it's supposed to without constantly needing to draw attention to itself and the Eee's tabbed, tidy little system does just that.

The rise of cloud computing is also another factor that has helped enable the success of the Eee and overcome the potential problem that the tiny SSD memory could be.

Because so much can now be done and saved and backed up online, the average consumer doesn't need laptops with 200GB HDDs, unless they are using them as a desktop replacement.

Personally, I'm not convinced by Asus' determination to expand the Eee brand as far as it currently is - but I do think their "Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play" strategy will continue to win hearts (and wallets) in the coming years.

In fact, I think there's more potential for the platform than has currently been realised with this year's exciting forthcoming industry developments that could bode even better for netbooks, should the right moves be made.

It's just wishful thinking at this stage, but Google's Android operating system is due to be launched later this year, and although designed for mobile phones, it seems like a potential dream-team option if the OHA could offer it for netbooks too...