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May 11, 2009

The future for netbooks

Posted: 11:28 AM ET

I don't own a netbook, but I do own a 5-year-old Dell Inspiron laptop. I like to think of my Inspiron as an "oversized netbook" simply because it makes me appear more trendy.

According to an April survey by Changewave Research, one out of every four computers purchased in the next three months will be a netbook. These small, inexpensive laptop computers are quickly becoming the latest hip accessory. Unfortunately, their bare-bones computing abilities make them about as useful as a chihuahua in a handbag.

In a TECH.BLORGE interview, Lenovo analyst Matt Kohut admits that netbooks may not live up to the expectations of some consumers.

Initially people weren’t sure what to do with them. Retailers were saying, "here’s this new netbook PC," and the average person picked one up and said, "oh wow, that’s small, maybe I can run Photoshop." So, as an industry, we ended up with a lot of returns, because the functionality of what netbooks could do was not well communicated.

However, Kohut is upbeat about the future of netbooks. Second-generation netbooks are expected to have beefier computing power, run Windows 7 and offer 3G wireless capabilities, all while price points continue to drop.

So where is Apple's sleek, user-friendly netbook alternative? Apple CFO Timothy Cook told investors not to hold their breath at the company's quarterly-earnings call:

When I look at what is being sold in the netbook space today, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens, and just not a consumer experience, and not something that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly.

However, Ars Technica isn't quite buying Cook's skepticism and points out that Apple always trashes an idea before doing it.

Even though they can't play games or edit video and often strain when loading YouTube, netbooks continue to sell. Do these low-priced Internet browsers fulfill an actual need, or are customers simply blinded by impossibly low prices?

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Filed under: Apple • computers • consumer tech • Internet • online video • technology


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L Stevenson   May 11th, 2009 1:25 pm ET

I just purchased a HP Mini 1116 NR for the express purpose of taking notes while at trade shows, client meetings, and airports. The battery life is about 3 hours. My "luggable" laptop weighs in at 7+ pounds. Unless I expect to be doing huge powerpoint presentations, then the Mini should serve me well. It is loaded with Windows XP home and is compatible with all devices in the office. I will add Dragon Naturally Speaking and dictate my notes. It should add to my overall efficiency.


Ort   May 11th, 2009 2:19 pm ET

Most users from what I have seen (I work for a tech support company that supports many different brands of computers) done need many of the functions that a full fledged laptop or desktop provide. All many really want is solitaire, email capability and basic Internet browsing. The net books do provide this. From a support side of the coin, they do lack many of the basic recovery tools needed. I do own one, and although it ad a recovery system, there was not way to make recovery disks, even if connected to a external CD/DVD burner. I had to order the recovery disks from the maker of the netbook.

Bottom line, they fill a niche for light users, but know what you are getting.


Ubik   May 11th, 2009 4:44 pm ET

I think netbooks are great for travel, especially if you are flying. They take up less space and weigh less. While on the road, I only use them for internet access and uploading pictures from my camera (I got better things to do than use Photoshop or YouTube while on travel).


Frank   May 11th, 2009 5:50 pm ET

Buying a netbook makes no sense. When either a) Apple bumps the memory of the iTouch to the point it becomes worth hacking it and having portable computing platform (w/an interface that makes more than casual info entry easy and simple), or b) Apple's reputed iPad makes an appearance w/respectable memory and input/output capabilities, then netbooks will become junk. C'mon...quadruple the current max iTouch memory and you have the makings of a respectable notebook computer, sans respectable i/o. Give me a fold-out or roll-out keyboard, or GOOD voice recognition software, and input is handled. Give me output to a standard Apple screen, or maybe goggles w/heads-up display, and we're cooking for output. For that matter, sell me a docking station for home and work while we're at it. Bundle in the iPhone capabilities and you'll see the mobile personal computing platform of the next 50 years. Don't like Apple – fine. Do it w/a Blackberry, or HTC, or any other mobile device. It's well w/in reach. But too many gullible people out there will buy crap (read "netbooks) because they're cheap (the people AND the hardware) and cute (the hardware).


NetBookUserReal   May 11th, 2009 6:00 pm ET

GEEKS!!!

My net book cost $300.00. For me it does what I wanted. No, I would not pay $3,000.00 for it, but I do not feel bad for what I got at the miracle price point.

You are correct, it does not run Photoshop. It does run Irfanview. That lets me preview pictures on a screen that is larger than the 3" screen on my camera. I can use it in the field from a cigarette lighter inverter because blowing up a $300.00 tool does not hurt like blowing my $2,000.00 laptop would.

When they put out a similar sized, similar price point tablet computer I'll buy that one too. AND No, I do not expect that one to run photoshop either.


JohnnyK   May 11th, 2009 7:54 pm ET

This is an awesome product. its really small and helpful. even though you can not use photoshop or play games, It is amazingly small. You can fit it anywhere you want. Yah it does have a cramped keyboard, but thats the point. Its small. And no it doesnt have junky hardware. It has quite good softwares. The screen is really small but then again, it is made to be like that. Its a note book and not a desktop. Eventually they will make it to a point where it is faster and more capible of doing much more than it is. But then again people. Look at the price. It is amazing to have a notebook for the price. It is perfect to take to school. Specially to take notes with. I take my sony to school but its too big to put on the small desks we have. This is perfect for students to have. specially when professors ask for typed papars or typed notes. Everything has its good and bad parts. But when you look at it from a students point of view, it is a great notebook to have.


Johnnyk   May 11th, 2009 9:39 pm ET

Who cares if this notebook PC cannot run Photoshop. It is a good product to run other things. For instance, I take my sony to school. its really big for the small desks we have. I type fast and the requirments for the teachers are typed up notes and typed papers. But what I have to do is write it on a paper then go home and type it. The reason why I dont take my notebook to school is because I cant use it its soo big. Yes the keyboard is cramped, but thats the whole point, ITS SMALL. Its really sad to say the software is terrible, because its not. It doesnt have junky hardware, and Im saying this because I was looking at it in the store. The screen is small because its supposed to be that way. hello the whole notebook is small. And the mac brand is on there because it is a great product. Cammon people. Look at the price. It is so inexpensive its horrible. This is a the perfect product for students to have at schools. It makes life way less complicated. This is the next thing I have on my list to buy, thats when I get my paycheck. and my paycheck is not that much, but enough to buy this wonderful creation of the small notebook PC. This is comming from a students point of view. This is a great product to have. And yes you can fit it anywhere you want. Its that small. Its almost so small you can fit it in the back pocket.


Scott S.   May 12th, 2009 1:08 am ET

I am currently on a 4 month trip through japan, and I find my Asus eee1000he to be invaluable. Since I am traveling out of my backpack, the low weight was ideal. Plus the 7-9hrs of batterylife allows me to go a few days between charging. I am taking tons of photos on my trip, so the 160gb hd is awesome. I have to disagree with the comment that it can't run photoshop. I am using photoshop a lot, and it works just fine. Sure, it's not as good as my MacBook pro, but that computer is huge and only had 2 hrs of battery.

In the end, the netbook is a wonderful travel companion.


ted   May 12th, 2009 1:29 am ET

Why does everyone hate on netbooks so much?

I have a Lenovo s10 and you better believe it runs photoshop, and youtube, and iTunes, and gmail, and cnn.com, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

The problem with most netbooks internet speed is default settings of maximum power save on the wireless card (acer aspire one).

This thing has a 160 gb HDD, 1.66 gHz processor, and for 24.00$ 2 gigs of RAM.

Does that sound like a 2004 inspiron?

Netbooks are fine, just dont get one for 200 bucks and a 8 gb SSD.


Lauren   May 12th, 2009 4:55 am ET

I think NetBooks can definitely fill an actual need. I would call myself your average consumer. I have a desktop and a Dell Inspiron laptop. Even though I already own 2 computers (and technically another desktop I am attempting to get up and running at the moment) I am seriously considering a netbook. They are inexpensive, and I am sure the small size will come in handy.
I am going to be starting college soon, and I have already discovered lugging my laptop around sucks. It is huge, awkward, and heavy. I also travel a lot and like to take advantage of wi-fi hotspots. Now, when carrying my computer to school, I just want something with a word processing program, and internet good enough for on-the-fly research and checking my email. When I travel, I don't spend time checking up on youtube– I want to be able to check my email, and that's it. I also have a need to be able to view PDFs and other small document types.
For me, a netbook really makes sense. It's small, light, and has all the computing power I need when I am on the go.
I think it all comes down to expectations. A lot of people want something portable that does what they do at home. Site after site, games, tons of software– people who are really wired in. Society and commercials tell us we need to do everything with our phones/laptops that could possibly ever need to done, but I don't think that actually holds true for most people.
If people realise that they should buy according to needs, and not wishes and wants and maybe's, netbooks will do fine.


Mark J.   May 12th, 2009 1:59 pm ET

I've had my ASUS EEE-PC for about a week and it works just as I had expected. With 2GB RAM, a 160GB hard drive, and a 9.5 hour (claimed) battery life, it's not a bad machine for well under $400. I wouldn't want to have it be my only laptop, but I have my larger Dell when I need it. For carrying around campus for meetings and for airline trips, it's perfect. Works much better in the car for checking email and such at rest stops and my wife can use it while I'm driving. Just pop in a Verizon WLAN USB adapter and you're all set. What's not to like?


Rob Martinez   May 12th, 2009 2:27 pm ET

Comparing Netbooks to Chihuhuas is SO NOT TRUE! Netbooks are not useless but rather a good alternative to expensive laptops that have way more computing power that we'll ever need.

IIT IS ALL ABOUT THE CLOUD FOLKS! Need a word processor? Use GOOGLE DOCS. Need IM? Use MEEBO.COM. How about Photoshop? Surely you have to have a powerful laptop for that! NOPE go to PIXLR.COM and voilá. How about gaming? Once again, no need. ONLIVE.COM will make even owning a console obsolete.

Netbooks povide fast internet data transfer and in the end that's all that we really need.


Jennifer   May 12th, 2009 2:35 pm ET

Not everyone sees cramped keyboards and tiny screens and terrible software. I own an Acer Aspire One, which I bought to replace my Alphasmart Dana because for $50 more than a new Dana, I could buy so much more. What do I do with my netbook? I write on it. I'm a published fantasy author, and I find my netbook's keyboard quite comfortable. With a free version of AbiWord, I didn't even bother with the overblown Microsoft Office trial that came with it.

To me, the screen is much larger than what I had been using. Not to mention the fact that I can check my email while I'm out, or surf the internet or whatever. And it's not too heavy to lug around, either.

And I'm getting a solid 6 hours of battery life, too. I'm not complaining!


Christy   May 12th, 2009 3:02 pm ET

I love my Acer Netbook and it does every think I expect out of a $350.00 computer. Mind you I had to do a few tweaks to the computer that your average computer user probably wouldn't know how to do to make it work for me. It plays YouTube and Hulu just fine. I can play my little causal games like Dinner Dash, but mind you I won’t be wiping it out to play the new FPS from Valve. The Keyboards are a bit small and if I want to watch a movie or TV show I own I have to pull out my USB DVD drive. Basically I am getting what I paid for, just don’t buy one expecting it to do EVERYTHING you desk top does. You wouldn’t expect a Kia Spectra to haul your boat so don’t expect a $300 dollar laptop to do Photoshop.


name   May 12th, 2009 3:41 pm ET

My netbook handles image, video, and web editing software just fine (GIMP, Avid Xpress, NVU, Open Office productivity suite). It doesn't run them the fastest in the world, but handles them just as well as my old office computer does. While some notebooks are on same for a few hundred more, for $350, I got a little PC than can handle my needs fine. The downsides are the small keyboard and small screen. For long durations of work, I still use a desktop.


Jason   May 12th, 2009 8:06 pm ET

Netbooks are the Super-Sub-Compact of the computing world😉 (think: Smart Car)

Not too flashy, not too fast. But gentle on the pocket book, and a great deal of the appeal stems from the simple fact that they're so darn tiny. I know girls who carry netbooks in their purses and students can easily fit one in a bookbag.

In that niche, there will always be a future for them. Students use them for taking notes, a cook can keep a vast array of recipies handy in one device, and sports-guys can keep tabs on stats during the game... even if they're watching it out on the patio.


Bill Wilcox   May 13th, 2009 12:30 pm ET

How about PowerPoint? Any limitations?


NervaVels   May 13th, 2009 12:56 pm ET

The netbooks are exactly what they state they are – for email, browsing and simple internet things. I love the small keyboards and screens, as I am a small person and really don't need or want all that space that comes with a notebook; it is wasted on me.

These work perfectly for my purposes, which is to keep up on email, write stories and spur-of-the-moment thoughts, and otherwise take notes. The keyboard is 100x better than trying to write on a palmpilot (remember those?) and light enough to carry the three to five miles I walk every day to work and class (I do not drive).

I think they're perfect.


Sam   May 13th, 2009 1:48 pm ET

My netbook has plenty of memory (expanded to 2GB for $20) and a hard drive. I used it to do comprehensive analysis of 100 million records of data, no problem. It's as powerful as a desktop from 2 years ago. The keyboard was hard to get used to, but with external keyboard & monitor it's a great machine. For less money than a $1000 laptop I got a netbook and a quad-core desktop.


Stephen   May 13th, 2009 2:27 pm ET

I am buying one for my wife who is a teacher. I bought her a laptop but it is too heavy for her to lug back and forth to school. She just wants to be able to write e-mails to her students' parents, write notes and create the occasional worksheet while on the go. Of course, being able to do a little research on the Web (on something actually big enough to read is also important.) A netbook fulfills her needs. I wouldn't be satisfied but I am a geek. My wife is just someone who has certain practical needs. Why buy a Mercedes when all you need to do is drive 3 miles to park at the train station.


Asmaria   May 13th, 2009 5:17 pm ET

Just don't get the one that comes with Ubuntu. My headache still isn't gone, five months later.

I like my netbook, because I blog from it and if I need to write from on the go, I can. It's very convenient for that. But it does have problems:

I use imeem and youtube but you have to be careful or the browser may crash from strain on the OS. For extra space I use little memory cards or USB sticks, but it IS a pain that you can't save anything to a CD, nor install from a CD, so I couldn't put windows on it myself after discovering how much Ubuntu (Linux) sucks. The keyboard is so small I constantly hit the enter key while searching for the apostraphe, which is where the alt key should be.

On the upside, it fits in my purse. I can take it anywhere. I think that's what keeps me from buying a new computer.


meg   May 13th, 2009 9:26 pm ET

My asus eee netbook is wonderful. i just needed internet and microsoft office, and the ocassional game, so I'm very happy to get that in a 300 laptop.


Marc   May 13th, 2009 11:24 pm ET

Well here are my two cents. I blew up my HP laptop in early April and needed something cheap and quickly to get me through until my laptop could be fixed. It took three weeks to get my HP back and as much as I liked that machine, I am not going back. My Lenova S10e is awesome! Yes, I put in extra memory but it runs Photoshop, standard Microsoft business applications just fine, email, web surfing etc. I use it to vpn into work and run some intense business applications such as MAPICS erp software. Is it a game machine, no way. But I own an XBOX already. This thing is so light it is amazing. Yes I plug into a 21" monitor at work and one at home too. Yes I plug in a full size keyboard and mouse when I can but I can use the keyboard fine in a car or plane (except for the ### right side shift key that is) I will always own one now and I am a bit of a techie. Will it replace a desktop? Maybe, depends what you need the desktop to do but it is an awesome second machine.


mark_s   May 14th, 2009 8:15 am ET

Netbooks are great. I'm running the Ubuntu Netbook remix and it does everything I could want. Word processing with OpenOffice, web browsing with firefox, some lightweight games, it'll even run GIMP. Yeah, it's not a desktop or heavyweight notebook, but it isn't supposed to be either. I haven't tried compiz on it but some people claim to have it working.

I'm just waiting for the new crop of ARM based netbooks coming later this year that'll up the battery life to 10+ hrs.


Mustafa   May 14th, 2009 8:43 am ET

The netbook is an awesome product. it does what it's suppose to do, to be used only for the people on the move who need portability and mobility along with the ability to keep in touch with the world. It was not meant to be worked with heavy software like photoshop.


Chris   May 14th, 2009 8:16 pm ET

I think they are great, like everyone says for travel should be the tool to go with. Less risk on my MacBook Pro. Which one is the best? any ratings on CNET? ASUS perhaps?


Janet   May 16th, 2009 10:32 pm ET

I bought an Asus Eee Pc netbook. I never owned a laptop and have no need for everything a laptop does. I do my banking and bill paying on line. I surf the net and play games. I think netbooks are great for us senior citzens.


Wayne   May 19th, 2009 8:26 am ET

I use an HP Mini as well. I use TalkingDesktop V5 for dictation and for outloud customer reminders when traveling . Battery life is about 3.5 hours and having XP means I do not have to learn another operating system. I love the portability, the reduced size and weight of this new class of computers


sarahbelll   March 29th, 2010 2:03 pm ET

Every time I come to scitech.blogs.cnn.com there is another interesting article up to read. One of my friends was telling me about this topic several weeks ago. I think I will send them the url here and see what they say.


Bottled Water   December 2nd, 2010 7:36 pm ET

i would always prefer to use netbooks when i am on the move because they are so very convenient to carry around `."


tryecrot   August 27th, 2011 2:59 am ET

Yes there should realize the opportunity to RSS commentary, quite simply, CMS is another on the blog.


Najib   April 1st, 2012 3:41 pm ET

Depends on which type of person are youNetbooks are for:-very milobe users, content with surfing the net, watching movies and not too much into games.. (although I have a Lenovo s10 netbook and it can play GTA Vice City/San Andreas, Warcraft, and NBA live 03)also, netbooks are good if you need to finish up certain documents in a rush (while on the road) or a quick Powerpoint presentation setup for emergency meetings. And since netbooks have lower processor speeds as compared to coventional laptops, you might expect a little longer battery life (given that you have both 3-cell batteries in a netbook and a laptop for cmparisonLaptops on the other hand are for:-computer geeks, addict gamers, and performance-sensitive users. They can run any programs you want given that you have the required patches/softwares (i.e., direct X 9.0 )for work, laptops are much dependable than netbooks, since it has greater capacity for processor-hogging softwares which might be needed in your job


Malissa Ohlund   May 24th, 2013 6:50 pm ET

Laptops are common now; everyone's these to decide on school or when they travel for work. They're useful and to maneuver with. What on earth is also common should be to see someone scrambling to discover a place to charge a laptop battery. That report due tomorrow may suddenly be lost if you don't find an outlet within thirty seconds... Or that slideshow you could have created (but carelessly forgot just to save) may disappear should your laptop battery is just not recharged.'....'

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Paz Agueda   July 14th, 2013 4:34 am ET

Portable computers, originally monochrome CRT-based and developed into the modern laptops, were originally considered to be a small niche market, mostly for specialized field applications such as the military, accountants and sales representatives..^*-

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