Dec 13 2008

The Reason for Netbooks

Netbooks have barely been around for a full year, but they’re suddenly all over the place. Why? How?

A few years back everyone thought ultramobile PCs were the thing, but they turned out to be too tiny, too expensive, and overall too unpopular to make it. Netbooks seem to have slipped into the gap where they’re just the right size and price to please consumers.

It’s interesting how this idea fits into the situation of netbooks. Over and over again, the tech industry tests the ideas thrown in its path: big cheap computers, small expensive ones, mobile ones, powerful ones. Some ideas fail but some just hit the spot. For many there’s no way to predict those victories – they seem arbitrary and random, inexplicable successes. But for the engineers and tech experts working on them, they’re difficultly won.

The big idea of netbooks is that they were inspired by the One Laptop Per Child organization, which distributed XO computers to children in third-world countries. Who knew the day would come when businessmen would run the same computers as the poorest countries in the world! Another influence was Transmeta, which made a move to conquer the budding market with its processor specifically designed for portable computers. Intel freaked out and threw together the Intel Atom we’re all too familiar with.

One Laptop Per Child

Mark Anderson is the brain behind Strategic News Service, the successful hi-tech newsletter. In ’97 he thought up ‘Project Hoover’; a concept derived from a meeting of the biggest minds in the PC industry. Project Hoover delivered a new generation of devices for emerging nations. The big companies eventually drifted off but Anderson drilled the idea a little further and came up with the ‘Carry Along PC’.

He got it right; a tough, portable, cheap, well-sized device for mobile computing… if you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s a netbook. He spoke with a confident hope: “[Netbooks] will be the best selling [computers] ever made because [they are] a great computer for the human body.

Anderson’s mentioned that he doesn’t love the name ‘netbook’, because for him netbooks will do more than just surf the net. His dream is coming true – just check out our article on the gaming netbook from ASUS.
So, why are netbooks so successful? They’ve gotten everything just right. For now we can only watch and hope consumers continue to agree.


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