We have covered all facets of mobile technology for years and the one undying fact, perhaps the only one, is that the more mobile the tech the more personal it is. Devices and computers that are meant to be highly portable will have strengths and compromises to achieve that high degree of mobility. These strengths and weaknesses are often the factors that determine if a given device is appropriate for a given user. One man’s bane is another’s killer feature, something determined by each user’s needs.
Whenever we see an innovative new device or genre of devices I get a kick out of watching the reactions. There never fails to be a contingent of folks who find that the new gadget is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They shout from the mountaintops how great the new device is and what it means to fulfilling their mobile computing needs. Of course there is another group of vocal folks, often the media, who jump in to decry the adoration by explaining to us all how great the short-comings of said device really are and how that other group doesn’t get it.
Such a discussion is getting a lot of attention recently as some prominent folks are taking pains to point out that netbooks, those little cheap laptops, are not the great mobile solution that apparently many think they are. All you have to look at are sales numbers and forecasts which are so big that they caught the entire industry napping to understand how big a deal netbooks have become. No matter what these pundits say the only opinion about a device or in this case a class of device that matters is that of the consumer. And there is no question they have a pretty good opinion of a small laptop that only costs a few hundred dollars.
A lot of attention has been generated by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch with his recent article Three Reasons Why Netbooks Just Aren’t Good Enough.Arrington made a big mistake with this article which examines whatfeatures netbooks lack and thus why they are not the cat’s meow manythink they are. His mistake was not what he said but how he said it.His article implies that netbooks fail everyone, not just him.
His three reasons can be boiled down to what makes netbooks soportable and so cheap- lower performance, small screen and smallkeyboard. Arrington feels that these three things prohibit netbooksfrom providing a decent web surfing experience. Putting aside hisarguments about where netbooks fall short I must point out that hisarticle demonstrates that he doesn’t understand mobile technology.Those three features, and I use that term purposely, are the verythings that make netbooks so appealing to the millions of people whoare buying them.
Lower performance is the result of using cheaper and power-stingycomponents to provide better battery life and lower cost. The smallerscreen and keyboard Arrington loathes are the very reason that netbooksare so small and mobile. Cheaper and highly mobile are the twofeatures that are driving the high sales numbers of netbooks and thatis not going to change. Netbooks are complete computers that provide a full computing experience in any event. While Arrington may find that thesecompromises render netbooks unusable for him they are the very thingsthat are driving high sales numbers. It’s that personal mobile techthing I mentioned.
Arrington’s arguments against netbooks are not surprising nor arethey anything new. Every single feature on a mobile device will be theone deal-breaker for another. It’s very personal and varies widelyfrom user to user. It’s why making general comments about mobiletechnology usually comes back to bite you later.