I’ve long been skeptical of netbooks, but clearly, I need to reassess my elitist attitude toward them. I wasn’t a fan partially because I don’t like using them and partially because I didn’t believe that consumers would really go for a machine that seems to call […]

I’ve long been skeptical of netbooks, but clearly, I need to reassess my elitist attitude toward them. I wasn’t a fan partially because I don’t like using them and partially because I didn’t believe that consumers would really go for a machine that seems to call for so many compromises. Most early versions didn’t use the Windows software familiar to most consumers, and the machines still have crummy graphics performance and require expensive 3G contracts in order to make them truly mobile.

However, perhaps I was too hard on them, or maybe I just forgot the appeal of cheap gadgets, because this weekend I was treated to a taste of how popular netbooks seem to be. On Sunday afternoon, I saw an ad for an HP netbook in the Toys “R” Us weekly circular, and I stumbled across my latest Consumer Reports featuring on the cover an Asus Eee PC  with ratings for netbooks, laptops and desktops inside. (The Samsung NC10-14GB was the No. 1 pick.)

netbooktoySo while I may not want a netbook, plenty of others do. As more people seek cheap alternatives to laptops for their kids and smaller machines for travel and to take to coffee shops, I could soon be in the minority. For those seeking netbook nirvana, check out the broad coverage over at our sister blog jkOnTheRun or some of the following posts that offer a quick primer on the machines.

  • A Quick Guide to Netbooks
  • 5 Things to Consider before Buying a Netbook
  • 10 Ways to Trick out Your Netbook for Free
  • 7 Ways to Make your WinXP Netbook Shine
    1. benjaminwright Monday, May 4, 2009

      My teenager is absolutely in love with her Acer Aspire. It is simply a reliable XP machine.

    2. MisterHobbes Monday, May 4, 2009

      why not? I travel alot, all I need is a portable laptop with wifi, not a full spec laptop for photoshopping and more. I think it makes sense it today’s world when people travel more than ever.

    3. Honolulu Bill Monday, May 4, 2009

      My Asus EEE PC turned out to be the computer I use most. Here’s how I use it:

      OpenOffice.org – spreadsheets and wordprocess – both of which save files in the .doc and .xls formats
      Wireless keyboard and mouse – although I can actually touch type on the keyboard
      Carry it with me when I travel – fast and easy to pull it out of my carryon bag for TSA security
      Coffee shops and public spaces throughout Honolulu offer free or cheap WIFI – SkyWave.com blankets the downtown and Waikiki areas.

      I plug in a 2GB flash drive for additional storage (there are 3 USB ports).

      Sacrificed Windows XP, but I’m making full use of the apps and functionalities this little $240.00 device came with. Worth every penny!

    4. The question was never whether netbooks would become popular or not.

      The question is whether the popularity of netbooks will decimate the PC industry. I don’t think companies like Dell or HP (at least the PC side of the business) will survive if half notebook customers opt to buy a netbook instead of a full-featured laptop. The margins simply aren’t there.

      It’s interesting that everyone trots out netbook unit numbers when talking about the “success” of netbooks. I wonder how so many analysts and tech writers can’t also look at netbook revenue and profits and compare them to the traditional notebook. I suspect many companies are selling 30%+ more units at a cost of a -50%+ loss of revenue and profit.

      Which doesn’t sound like a sustainable business strategy to me, but I guess unit numbers make people go blind or stupid or something.

      1. Stacey Higginbotham Lava Monday, May 4, 2009

        I worry less about OEMs who are used to razor-thin margins, than folks like Intel and Microsoft who are already suffering from netbooks denting their margins. Om wrote about Intel in an earlier post http://gigaom.com/2009/01/07/for-intel-netbooks-bring-fear-loathing-in-las-vegas/

    5. You bet. I bought myself a Samsung NC10, upgraded its HDD to 320Gigs and the memory to 2GB. There is absolutely no reason why I cannot use this config for ‘mobile productive office work’. It has a cam for voip video calls built in, great wireless connection, large HD and a good sized keyboard. Best of all, I slip it into my executive leather folio when I meet clients. Oh, and it does a great job of switching to external projectors (I’ve faced nightmares with may full size laptops).

    6. Jeffrey McManus Monday, May 4, 2009

      I don’t get why people are surprised at the popularity of netbooks. Disruptive technologies are nearly always a little bit worse and a whole lot cheaper than the technologies they replace. In a world in which processor power is no longer a meaningful differentiator for mobile devices, it’s no surprise that people are going after lighter weight and longer battery life.

    7. @lava; absolutely right on, but you forgot this year the choice for consumers is wait another year to buy a real laptop, or buy a $300 netbook. Today’s laptop computers are SO powerful you can get 3-4 years out of one; if you want a new toy it is just easier to buy a netbook.

    8. I find a netbook is much easier to travel with than a full laptop. Much lighter to pack – and easier to bring out at meetings for some quick notes. The longer battery life is another bonus.

      When you add Windows 7 and some of the work that PixelQi is doing on longer life screens to the next generation of netbooks, their future looks pretty bright indeed !

    9. Andrew Payne Monday, May 4, 2009

      Do you have kids?

      Because of the price and durability (for the early SSD models), netbooks make a great starter system for kids. My kids are getting netbooks at an earlier age than they would have gotten their own laptop (say 10-12yrs for netbooks, 14yrs for laptops).

      With the browser becoming the only “app” that matters, netbooks are becoming a “gateway” computer for young users.

    10. I picked up an ASUS EeePC 701 when they first came out. It was meant to be a secondary (and more portable) device to my home (notebook) computer – and I wasn’t under any misconceptions about the limitations this little device offered.
      If it’s had any failings, its been the poorly realised Linux distro that came with it (and I’m not fussed enough to change that – but have since unearthed the ‘Advanced Mode’ Desktop), while its tiny SSD is still capable of storing some 600 photos, several hours of music, a whack of documents, a number of 3rd Party programs and still have room left over.

      Plug in an SD card or USB drive and I’ve watched movies….

      18 months (and several million netbooks later) it still garners some interest from others – especially its size, which makes modern netbooks look practically, well….notebook-like in size.

    Comments have been disabled for this post