Will Netbooks Stay Mainstream?

An advanced new type of netbook hardware just got delayed, and notebooks are starting to cut into the netbook price range. So why buy a netbook now?

Recent reports show netbook sales increasing, but I think we're going to see this trend diminishing in a few months. Here's why I think so:

  1. Stale hardware. Netbook hardware just isn't advancing, thanks to a number of features. My netbook is about a year old and it's got pretty much the same hardware as the newest models. And according to Gizmodo, netbook hardware's going to stay about the same, at least until Windows 7 is generally available in October. Netbook hardware is fine if you never multitask, but people love to do several things at once. Computer hardware advances, so why can't netbooks?
  2. Tiny screen. I recently came back from vacation in Seattle, and I took my netbook with me. The tiny machine was great for travelling—it's small enough to fit in a backpack, easy to handle for security checks, light enough to keep in carry-on luggage, and inexpensive enough that my life wouldn't be ruined if something terrible happened to it. And as long as I used it as a "netbook"—light web browsing and email checking—it was fine. But I had to keep my sessions short because the tiny screen would start to get annoying. This was great on vacation, where I was enjoying Seattle, but if I'd been expected to work I'd have been desperate for a full-size notebook.
  3. Notebooks are cheap. In recent months, several stores have started to offer large notebooks on sale for around $300, the price range that was once the exclusive domain of netbooks. A family member has one of these $300 notebooks, and while it lacked some features I'd want if it were my only computer, it blows my netbook out of the water for most uses as a secondary computer. These ultra-cheap notebooks have bigger screens and better hardware then netbooks, with the tradeoff being somewhat shorter battery life and the Windows Vista OS. Vista is OK on these single-core, low-end machines, but with a less demanding OS would make these computers even better deals.

Assuming that retailers keep offering full-size notebooks at netbook prices, it's hard to see what future netbooks have. Unless you need to lug your computer absolutely everywhere you go, why not carry a larger laptop?

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TAGS: Windows 8
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