We might not have believed it 5 years ago, but “netbooks” are proving that there is a real market for tiny, affordable laptops. They are selling like hotcakes, but what does that mean for us in the future?
What netbooks lack power and features, they make up with much smaller form factors and very affordable prices. They usually come in at 7-10 inches, with Intel Atom processors and a variety of hard drive, SSD, and webcam options. Netbooks are selling well; they dominate Amazon’s top 20 bestsellers list, taking up 15 spots. New models are popping up weekly with almost all major PC manufacturers marketing their own ultraportable.
We have to keep in mind though that there are quite a few problems. Companies like Sony and Apple fear that a price war will force prices down and shrink already small profit margins. Also, as Farhad Manjoo of Slate says, they are ugly and can be pretty slow since they run operating systems designed for full-fledged computers. He calls for a sleek tablet that would be optimized for web and media consumption, pretty much a big iPod touch.
I don’t know if a tablet will be the sweetspot in the netbook world. There have been previous attempts at making a web tablet, but they haven’t really caught on. What I do know is that the laptop arena is going to experience big change in 2009 as new form factors and configurations emerge, among other things. We can expect some interesting new devices to be released in the coming months.