My hard disk has a warning of impending failure. I was thinking of getting my next laptop a toughbook, but I remember reading about Asus EEE PC on Popular Mechanic somewhere. I'm glad I checked it out.
It runs on Linux, but staying with the easy mode means you'd never know it. More importantly, you can use the advanced mode and install all kinds of programming goodies, including gnu c compiler, kernel change, and even other OS such as Windows XP or Vista. Vista will run sluggishly.
Good news is that Skype will work with webcam although you'll have to update the software, as does Wacom tablet. Http://wiki.eeeuser.com has a comprehensive topic for eeepc. Try looking it up on YouTube. I'm sure you'll like it!
About the only thing is that, instead of hard disk, it uses memory card. Vibration proof, but limited in size. Try getting a 4G (not 4G Surf) or 8G. 8G will come out in Summer for $499. You can get a much better laptop for that price, but not the reliable form factor.
I'm undecided, but I'll probably get a 4G ($399) for now. I can use Linux (Xandros, a Debian offshoot) distro for dev. That would be neat!