When you think of someone rising up to compete against the likes of HP, Dell, Acer, Asus and MSI in the netbook market, generally only big-name hardware vendors come to mind; maybe Intel or AMD. Even Samsung made sense when they entered the market. Hercules, however, is not one that would pop into my head -- and yet they are the latest in a long list of companies that are selling the mini-laptops, with the introduction of their eCafe EC-1000W netbook.
It's an average-sized unit, sporting a 10.1" 1024x600 LCD, ample storage capacity with a 250GB unit and probably decent on performance with the Atom N270 CPU. It'll also come with a 6-cell battery, indicating it likely has a decent battery life. The mentioned price tag of $399 puts it more or less in the "average" range for netbooks, since most vendors seemed to have abandoned the idea of ultra-cheap.
On the software side, Hercules isn't just playing it safe. It seems they have both Windows and Linux offerings, and go to considerable lengths to explain what feature-sets they offer with both operating systems. Stock software includes things like Firefox, OpenOffice and more. Windows 7 will be the standard Redmond offering for when it becomes available.
Is there room for yet another netbook vendor in the world? Hercules is certainly welcome to try -- it's crowded, but there's definitely room for improvement. Unfortunately, it looks like Hercules isn't tackling one of the most troubling areas of the netbook market: pricing.