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When is a netbook no longer a netbook?

Netbooks are exploding. This isn't really up for discussion; they're simply a cheap alternative to traditional laptops that meet about 90% of our needs, both in the educational sector and beyond.
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Written by Christopher Dawson on

Netbooks are exploding. This isn't really up for discussion; they're simply a cheap alternative to traditional laptops that meet about 90% of our needs, both in the educational sector and beyond. I'm even writing a letter to staff at the high school today encouraging them to give my evaluation Acer Aspire One a spin. The laptops they received from a donation almost 4 years ago are dying quickly and, since the district opted to ensure that there was a desktop in every room instead of replacing the teacher laptops, netbooks represent an inexpensive way for teachers to equip themselves with mobile computing resources.

Taking a look at the CES lineup this year, it seems like just about everyone is touting their latest netbooks. Intel is announcing a new reference design for its Classmate PC, and HP, MSI, and Asus are bringing new products to market as well. Great! Competition is our friend here in Ed Tech, where price is king.

However, please note that when I refer to netbooks in this blog, I will never be referring to $1649 Atom-powered MacBook Air wannabes. The Asus S121, as reported by PC Magazine,

The unit weighs 2.6 pounds and is only 0.75-inch thick. Its 12-inch widescreen is backed by LEDs and possesses a 1,280-by-800 resolution. Other luxurious features include a 128-GB SATA solid-state drive and twin batteries that can provide up to 10 hours worth of battery life. The only netbook trait that the S121 really has is that it runs the Intel Atom platform.

Do you know what I can buy with over $1600? At least 4 Acer Aspire Ones! Or an actual MacBook Air.

Market segmentation and product differentiation are fine ideas. I'm a capitalist at heart; how much should companies charge for their products? As much as the market will bear, as my old economics teacher would tell us. However, in a recession with drastically decreased tax revenues available for educational funding, let's keep these netbooks in perspective, OK?

Netbooks can solve a lot of problems. How do we cheaply deploy a lot of computers to students and teachers who really just need web access and productivity software? With netbooks, of course. Just make sure you leave the $1600 netbooks for overpaid executives to purchase with government bailout money and stick with the $2-300 bargain basement models for your classrooms. Buy what you need, folks, not what flashy models show you on the CES floor.

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