They change computing in fundamental ways.
We're accustomed to thinking of computing as a client (desktop or laptop) linked to a server (Intranet or Internet) through an interface (a browser) which translates HTML code on the server to a mind behind the screen.
There are two clients, a “home” computer which may still live in a home or office, and a “remote” computer (either an Asus or something like an iPhone), for use on the road.
Both clients are synced to the cloud. You have files, the cloud has files. Which is primary and which is back-up is up to you.
This becomes clear once you learn Chrome's address bar. It's a search bar, a direct link into the Google search engine. It is, in fact, a Web application.
The operating system, in the case of both the browser and the netbook, becomes meaningless.
The software is designed to be a web application interface, not a Web page interface, with each tab a separate instance of the software, having full access to your processing power and memory.
The Asus comes with Windows XP, if you want it, but why would you want it? All your common applications are built-in. The solid state design makes a hard disk superfluous. You could plug 80 Gbytes in via a USB port, but if you can get an 8 Gbyte stick for $50 what's the point?
But there are limits.
One thing I have not pointed out before is the location of the speaker and microphone jacks. They're on the side, near the front.
This makes the Asus a Skype box, ready for Internet telephony enhancements like whiteboards and video. (Did I mention that's a 1.3 Megapixel Webcam on top of the screen, pointed at your head?)
The Asus weighs less than a kilogram, with the battery plugged-in. Thus it is light enough for the back of a car, small enough for the tray table on the seatback in front of you.
There is a merger coming between the netbook and Internet clients like the iPhone, which fit in your pocket. This is key.
The merger will happen in the cloud.
Back-up files and configuration live online, synced with whatever device you're on. Online services become real services, providing open source a superior business model.
One more important point.
In the case of both Chrome and netbooks like the Asus we are still barely at Version 1.0. Microsoft Windows didn't become a winner until it hit Version 3.0. So there's some evolving yet to happen.
But I can see the future, and it's different. I may have finally found what I'm looking for.