How will Netbooks change our computing lives

How will Netbooks change our computing lives

Summary: Instead of being an end in itself, which a laptop becomes, a Netbook is a means to the end, the end in this case being the Internet. Its competition, for better or worse, is the iPhone, and it competes based on an interface that can accommodate 10 fingers and a PC screen's aspect ratio.


Royal Pingdom has a post up about how Netbooks change the way we live. (Picture from JinJin80, a chef's blog.)

It's mostly tongue in cheek. Wardriving from the bathroom. Comparison shopping on the High Street. Copying recipes in a neighbor's kitchen.

A lot of these are also smartphone applications. As I've said the difference between a smartphone and a Netbook in 2010 will be its case. Many will share chip sets and software.

Which leads me to ask, more seriously this time, how will Netbooks change our computing lives?

Despite the Microsoft triumphalism, they can't be seen as a winner. Yet.

Winning the OS war here meant dropping XP at $3/copy. Even if you add old versions of common applications to that bundle, fact is you're not making money, and you're making your margins wafer thin.

You're not going to spend $300 for software on a machine that cost you $200, maybe less. You're going to use what came with the device, and treat it as disposable.

Instead of being an end in itself, which a laptop becomes, a Netbook is a means to the end, the end in this case being the Internet. Its competition, for better or worse, is the iPhone, and it competes based on an interface that can accommodate 10 fingers and a PC screen's aspect ratio.

All of which means that the most important sale for a Netbook owner will be an automated "sync" service, one which assures any files you create or improve on the device are updated to a Web site that becomes your data's real home.

Cheapskates may want to just use a stick memory and wait until they get home to sync up, so don't go writing big business plans -- even this service is going to be low-priced and low-margin.

My point is that, with a Netbook on the road joining your laptop back at home and the desktop at your office, not to mention the phone in your pocket, we are creating data in a lot of places, some of which we may want to save.

Which brings me to the picture above. Mise en place may be the big opportunity Netbooks make obvious.

What do you think?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Smartphones

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  • Netbooks will change our lives by... us severe carpal tunnel by using such a small crowded keyboard and make us lose our eyesight earlier by having to work on such a tiny screen.

    At least thats my opinion on the netbooks I have seen and used from HP, ACER, Dell, ASUS, etc...
    • I hear you

      It should not be necessary for a Netbook to have
      a crappy keyboard. The difference in OEM price
      between a good one and a crappy one is not big
      enough to justify the overall price difference
      between a Netbook and a laptop.

      Same with the screen.

      But I'm just a cranky 50+
      • Actually, I don't find my EEE PC 901/Linux That Hard to Use

        I surf the Web and answer e-mail on it at home, while traveling, and yeah - while on the can.... ::g:: It beats my G-1 for sending e-mail by a considerable margin - or would if it had wireless mobile Internet so I could just slip it out of my knapsack and use it at any coffee shop or even in my car, rather than having to find a Starbucks or truck stop w/free wifi....

  • I think a $200 netbook will kill

    ...SMARTPHONES. :)

    Think about it. Even subsidized smart phones are $200+. The experience (compared to a computer) sucks. Badly. No keyboard (and no, a 10 key keypad is not a keyboard) tiny screen, special websites formatted for the crappy screen...

    I carry a phone with the typical phonebook "app". It doesn't have voicedial--but that's not an application, that's a feature. It's not a smartphone. I don't *want* a smart phone.

    Once they solve the price/keyboard/connectivity issue I might carry a nettop. In *addition* to a semi-dumb phone.

    Of course with a blue-tooth headset it might actually be able to replace the phone--assuming the sound-quality issues can be dealt with.

    But in any case the smart-phone is about to follow the PDA into oblivion.
    • I disagree

      I think that smartphones only need to evolve one more step, and become a fully mobile computing solution.

      Imagine if you will. At your workplace, at home, you have a dock for your smartphone, device, whether it be Apple, MS based, Android or what ever. Dock your device, and the dock is connected to a keyboard, mouse, printer, and monitor.

      And maybe a usb dongle to connect to some sort of monitor, keyboard, mouse config at a coffee shop, you plug it into the monitor, and interfaces with the keyboard and mouse, and your off and runnin. Everything there is just hardware, and leaves no finger print behind.

      just a thought.

      • The iPhone

        I suspect that the rush to Netbooks has the same
        cause as the rush to Android smartphones --
        iPhone. Carriers are desperate to get something
        which competes with it.
    • There will be competition

      With smartphones and Netbooks sharing a chip set
      and open source stack I expect to see a lot more
      competition on the interface end.
  • Netbook VS PDAphone

    There's a difference between the smartphone and PDA phone. The main difference is screensize and touchscreens. Netbooks can have the same functionality, but the processor still limits the power it can handle such as games or rendering.

    For a "smartphone" to take over the netbook market, it would first need database and document full functionality. Microsoft Mobile has this functionality, but it's time consuming due to screen size and processing power, let alone applications that are still limited.

    Other aspects would be cross applications. yeah windows mobile isn't Windows, but it still works the same way. I would like to run an application from windows on the phone without waiting for a compatible software version or a 3rd party app that does the same thing.

    Finally, I enjoy the use of Evernote, but the smartphone should be on a network the same way netbooks/computers are for file sharing and other types of peer-to-peer sharing rather than just syncing.
    Maarek Stele
  • RE: How will Netbooks change our computing lives

    Dana - I'm sorry to ask, but how does a "NetTop" differ from a NetBook, anyway? No built-in monitor/keyboard/pointer?

    Your article isn't very clear on that.... :(
    • NetTop?

      A Nettop is designed to stay at a desk. It plugs
      into the wall and is descended from set-top box
      replacements cable operators were drooling over

      A Netbook is designed as a laptop replacement.
      It runs on batteries and generally has no moving
      parts. (I've seen some with hard drives, none
      yet with DVD players.)
  • Introducing the Redfly
    Smartphone -> netbook
  • How Microsoft will be out of this game

    People will buy Windows netbooks, if they don't perceive they are paying for the OS.

    But people won't pay $100 more for Windows, and that's the reason why Microsoft had to slash the price of XP to $15, in order to stay competitive.

    I'm just waiting for the new wave of Linux/ARM netbooks, which will cost less than $300 and boost up to 15 hours of battery life.

    I suppose Apple will launch an ARM netbook as well -- they've got all the necessary expertise with the iPhone.

    So, Linux will be competing with Apple, and Apple will be competing with Linux. Apple will be the "cool", and Linux will be the "cheap".

    Microsoft will be out of this game.
    • Can Microsoft live on $15/PC?

      A few years ago there was a big hullaballoo
      about Microsoft offering China Windows for as
      little as $3, and a bundle which included basic
      Office functions for $15. Per unit. As a way to
      compete with Linux.

      I think what has happened with Netbooks is that
      Microsoft has taken this strategy worldwide.

      The key is creating upsell, and the real
      question is how much upsell they can get.
      Security? Larger applications? The PC equivalent
      of an extended warrantee?
  • Browser War on Steroids

    The browser war gave us several browsers superior to Microshaft's Internet Explorer, notably Opera, Firefox and Safari...and keep your eyes on Chrome and Fennec.

    Just a casual glance at the intense competition and innovation in the netbook arena is enough to make one drool over the possibilities. Things are getting hot even before Apple and Android make their debut.

    I think netbooks will both drive innovation and ultimately help erode Microsoft's monopolistic market share.

    In the meantime, why is everyone resigned to the idea that netbooks will never be anything more than cheap, stripped down laptops?

    My MacBook Pro (laptop) has effectively replaced my Dell PC as my primary computer. If someone could pack the MacBook Pro's power and features into a netbook, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

    Cramped keyboard and monitor? Get an external keyboard and monitor for home use!

    What could be cooler than an ultra-portable netbook that's even more powerful than a MacBook Pro, a mini-laptop that could replace most people's desktops? It may sound like a fantasy now, but I can't believe I'm the only consumer who would buy such a computer, and technology will certainly make such a super netbook feasible. Either pack more power and features into a netbook or shrink a desktop down to netbook size.

    Cloud computing and diverse purchasae plans (including cell phone-style contract plans) will make netbooks even more popular, a lose-lose situation for Microsoft.

    Viva Netbooks!
    David Blomstrom