I Want a Netbook, Not a Little Notebook

1Executive Summary

I’ve been using netbooks since before they were called netbooks. My first one was the original ASUS Eee PC 701, which I bought back in the fall of 2007. Since then, I’ve had hands-on time with dozens of netbook models, and I’ve retired the original Eee PC (which I was able to use to cover the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show) for an MSI Wind. These devices work for me because I’m web-centric and not dependent on applications.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably not your everyday, average mainstream consumer. I suppose that’s why I’m in the minority when I get excited at hearing netbook developments that don’t include Intel and Microsoft, developments like ASUS and other vendors creating netbooks that run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor or use Google’s Android mobile operating system, for example. But there’s a reason: Today’s netbooks are overkill for a web-centric consumer like me.

Just to prove that theory to myself and our readers in 2008, I took a 60-day web challenge using no applications other than a web browser. That challenge taught me that, although web applications are still maturing, there are plenty of application-specific functions that have web counterparts — and, most importantly, most of my computing requirements really can be met with a browser, touch-type keyboard, display and connectivity.

Sure, my MSI Wind runs on an X86-compatible CPU, so it has some advantages over an ARM-based device. With it, I can install (and have) various operating systems, including several Linux distros, every Microsoft Windows version from XP to 7 and even Mac OS X. That’s definitely a flexible device. And, when you add in the ability to install third-party applications for any of those platforms, the number of choices becomes mind-boggling. But it’s overkill for my vision of a netbook. And it comes at a price, both financially and technically.

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  1. jonathanwirt1 Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    Kevin, well I joined the netbook revolution last week when I bought an Asus Eee PC 1000he. I too live in the cloud and the only real app that I run is Itunes. Granted, I kinda hate itunes for how heavy it is, but it is the easiest thing to manage my touch. My only complaint is that sometimes I find the netbook a little slow.

    Did you upgrade your ram to 2gb? Ram is pretty cheap these days – but will it significantly speed up my machine? Is it easy to install w/o voiding the warranty?

    1. Upgrading from 1 GB to 2 GB probably won’t make much difference if you’re running WinXP. It runs really well on 1 GB. iTunes is a bit of a performance dog though.

  2. Martijn Stegink Saturday, June 6, 2009

    I agree completely. Most of what I do is online but while my MacBook Air is doing a great job the battery life is not nearly enough.
    I would probably exchange it for double the battery life and even less weight.

  3. jonsteinberg1 Friday, June 5, 2009

    Are you guys planning to do a Netbook Research Note or Report? Would be very helpful

    1. We don’t have anything in the works at this moment, but what kind of information would be of interest to you in a report? Others have ideas?

      1. Something deeper with data and trend projections. This “brief” doesn’t seem to fit a “pro” product. It’s just anecdotal. Need something that talks about the types of apps, age groups, carrier deal subsidies…etc etc

    2. Jon – we will have some mobile device research. This piece is by one of our editors, Kevin Tofel, who does a great job of lending his insight to this subject, but our editors will not write pieces as long as the analysts. The analyst briefings are what are more typically seen as market research reports, and these will vary from anywhere from short notes (2-5 pages) to 35-40 page reports. Keep an eye out and I am sure you will be pleased as the year rolls on.

  4. I would submit that we need to see some additional innovation around the morphology of the netbook. Another step towards phone design, not tablet size (too big) or PSP (too small)…something more portable and sleeker. Kindle-like I think, but I am not a designer.

    What I want to do with a truly portable net device: read, surf, map, share, converse, watch, process, and game. Netbook currently can DO that, but it is not a pleasurable experience. Too awkward.

    Just one opinion…but am interested in seeing how Qualcomm will influence the device.

  5. Michael Scharf Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    ^^^To live in the cloud, I’d need much better mobile broadband than what’s offered today.^^^ Battery life has been an issue, but seems less so on the Snapdragon and the new nVidia platforms.

    Like Mari, I’m getting there… But at a slower pace than you are.

  6. Kevin- ^^^I may gradually move to more Web apps, but for the moment, I do love my netbook running a standard Windows OS.^^^ I *live* on my netbook, truly making it more of a small notebook rather than a “net”book. The only things I revert to my old Dell 15-incher for are multimedia projects.

    Incentives for Qualcomm and Asus to innovate? I think they’re there, but the industry is (not surprisingly) moving at a more gradual pace than you are. :)

    1. Mari

      Good point. I have to admit, it has been hard for me to love the netbooks. I like living on the cloud and for that the Macbook Air does a much better job. For everything else I end up using my smart-phone(s).

      THis weekend I didn’t even open the computer once. Which tells me that today’s smart phones (and ipod touch) are good enough for someone like me to survive in this increasingly digital world.

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