Let's first be clear about what a netbook is. (I consider this a netbook, Peter.)
My definition is simple.
A netbook has no moving parts. No hard drive, no optical drive.
It may have USB ports into which these (and other) peripherals can be connected, but no moving parts is the essence of the concept.
Because it has no moving parts a netbook can be both cheap and rugged by design. It's no longer a PC per se, but a gadget, like a phone or an iPod, made and priced the same way.
The first netbooks could not run Vista, and this hurt Microsoft last quarter. It gave Linux a big advantage, but I believe some of that advantage has been lost, because the first netbooks were
Netbooks emerging later this year won't be so bad, and Windows 7 will run on them, so it's very possible Redmond will laugh at these dark days a year from now. Better designs and a simpler operating system mean they can't be counted out.
But what about America? That's where my fear lies.
Because a netbook is made and priced like a gadget, Asian gadget makers have a big advantage, not just in labor but in the sourcing of parts, which has followed low labor costs to China. Even your iPod is assembled in China.
The question is not whether Microsoft can survive in a netbook world -- Moore's Law will take care of that. It's not whether open source can survive it -- open source is not dependent on Linux.
The question is whether Dell and H-P can survive in a netbook world.
- Can they find ways to package hard drives and optical drives as attractive, USB-ready add-ons?
- Can they ask WWSD (What Would Steve Do) and get attractive, consumer-friendly designs in answer?
- Can they create worldwide netbook channels and business models quickly?
I don't know. History tells me they can't.
But history also tells me change is possible, and that American innovators are the best in the world.
P.S. Hope you missed me. I was on jury duty.