You can't hardly give away netbooks these days

One big name in technology isn’t giving up on netbooks: Google

I love my goofy, travel-ready Chromebook. It helps that it was given away for free at the last Google I/O. It helps even more that one can, with concentrated effort (read: procrastination power) install Ubuntu as a dual-boot option. But I get the sense that little notebooks are going the way of MySpace.

Lenovo makes one of the best netbooks around, and they’re no longer selling it online. Amazon’s Trade-In center recently started accepting netbooks in that tight-but-convenient-cash market. On the more anecdotal tip, mentions of “netbooks” have seriously slowed in my personal Google Reader catalog, which is stocked with more than 200 tech news sources; what mentions there are usually come from discounts, bargains, or off-hand references to new cellular data plan packages.

But one big name in technology isn’t giving up, and it’s Google. Working with Samsung, they just released a new Chromebook. A Chromebook is basically what the industry calls a netbook, with some key modifications: a bigger trackpad, specialty function keys, some nice keyboard layout tweaks, and an emphasis on storing things in the cloud, particularly Google’s cloud. With the release of Google Drive, which gives everybody at least 5 GB of store-what-you-want space, and with offline Docs access rolling out soon, a new, faster Chromebook with a robust cloud behind it is Google’s best shot at really moving their idea of netbooks into buyers’ hands.

There’s a lot of selling points for a Chromebook, especially if you’re someone for whom the browser is the main business tool. The battery life is really impressive, the boot-time is almost unnoticeable, and they’re pretty close to the weight and form factor of the much-revered MacBook Air. But if you appreciate light, versatile, and airport/train usability, you’re also in need of mobile web connections. And the U.S. just hasn’t arrived at attractive options for reliable and affordable Wi-Fi or cellular web access wherever you go. You can pay (or get your office to pay) for something like 20 GB of connectivity per month and not worry, or you can distract yourself wondering if your document changes made it through. Nobody wants to pay a premium on lesser hardware for that privilege.

That’s all I got. Do you like your netbook, and hope a better version of it is available to buy when it’s time for a replacement? Are you happily toting a tablet and occasional extra keyboard? What’s your in-between computing solution, in general?

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