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Could netbooks change the whole laptop game? 10 June, 2008

Posted by Jay Ball in Uncategorized.

Like many people, I’ve owned and used a succession of laptops over the years – not to mention selling them on behalf of a variety of clients. Over that time the screens have got bigger (and better) as have the hard drives and performance for most tasks is comparable to a desktop.

Of course the price we pay for this is that the original computer-on-the-move idea behind laptops has been largely lost from many models. They are increasingly designed to be taken from room to room not country to country. Many are full-on media centres able to store all your DVDs, CDs and photos. Up to a point it seemed that this trend was unstoppable.

Until that is, some bright spark took a fresh look at what most people really use laptops for (web, mail, a bit of word processing etc) stripped away a lot of the extraneous bits and pieces and came up with the netbook.

Basically, netbooks are tiny laptops whose main function is to get users online and allow them to do a few basic tasks. Increasingly using Intel’s new Atom processor and often featuring solid state drives, netbooks avoid the “added value” elements that are normally included in today’s laptops (but rarely used by real live people).

The poster child so far has been ASUS’s Eee PC which was launched with a 7″ screen, a 4 gig solid state drive and WiFi – and has sold hundreds of thousands of units in a pretty short space of time. But the Eee PC is not alone – there’s the Cloudbook, MSI Wind, HP’s 2133 Mini-Note PC and the Noahpad among others with new options from the like of Dell in the offing.eeepc.jpg

Interestingly, pretty much all netbooks either have Linux as their default OS or offer it as an option. And, despite the still relatively low take-up on other PCs, on the netbooks it doesn’t seem to matter to users. Because netbooks are first and foremost internet devices, as long as you can get web, mail, IM and Skype who cares? And, of course, LInux is free so it keeps the price down too.

The scary thing for those in Redmond is: once people realise that, for what they need, Linux is absolutely fine and that they can get oodles of other applications absolutely free – why go back? In fact, why not install it on other laptops and your desktop PCs for that matter?

Personally, I’m pretty tempted by a netbook, it’d be like a web-enabled Moleskine. But, of course, a 9″ MacBook Air might just prove irresistible.



1. Anthony Galvin - 11 June, 2008

I’ve been an ‘Eee’ user for a few months now but I’ve only really started to maximise it’s potential since I changed my day-to-day document management and calendering.

Previously I’d had files available online, but edited them using local applications. However, since moving to editing my documents and calendar online (via Google the ‘Docs’ and ‘Calendar’ applications), the ‘Eee’ has really come into it’s own.

I suppose this highlights how the important the browser has become – for me the fact the ‘Eee’ is portable and reliable is just another way of saying I’m able to access a browser most of the time, well except when I can’t WiFi. Which is perhaps where the 3G iPhone steps in.

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