We cheered netbooks when they appeared two years ago, and many vendors jumped into that market. But is Two Years On, Netbooks on Verge of a Big Shake-Up really true? I'm afraid it may be, and we can only blame the vendors themselves for poorly managing their newly created market segment.
If you remember, the first netbooks shipped with no hard disk and customized versions of Linux installed. They weren't “little laptops” but more “mobile computing appliances.” Do your e-mail, browse the Web, do some light word processing, and that's all. The early ones really went too small, with the 8.9 inch screen and tiny keyboards. Newer models with 10 inch screens and almost normal sized keys should have been the first models introduced, but that's how it goes.
There were two real problems that messed up the netbook success ride. First, each new vendor released essentially the same netbook because they all used the same processor and support chips. Second, Microsoft reversed course and sold Windows XP to the vendors when they added more memory and a real hard disk.
Why is that a problem? Netbooks went from mobile computing appliance to underpowered laptops in a heartbeat. The backlash has gotten so bad we're seeing articles like Don't Buy a Netbook, Ten Reasons Why. You don't need Windows XP unless you're trying to create a regular laptop computing experience, and netbooks can't really do that.
If you're looking for a cheap laptop, don't buy a netbook because they don't have the same processing power. They're less expensive and weigh less, but be sure you can make do with less of a computer. If you're looking for a primary desktop replacement system, buy a real laptop rather than a netbook.
If you're looking for a mobile computing appliance for e-mail, browsing, and generally light work, take a look at a netbook. But you better hurry, because some of the vendors may get out of the netbook biz soon.