I am going to go on record here and claim that 2010 will see the rapid and inexorable decline of the popularity of the Netbook. I have been using a Netbook for more than 6 months, and using it with Windows 7. I finally gave up on my Lenovo S10 with 2GB of RAM.
While there have been scores of articles breathlessly extolling the coming panacea brought to you by Netbooks, I am calling bullshit, and in fact going to make the claim that the Netbooks will suffer the same fate as the Razor scooter. In fact, for the true nerds, let’s do a cast:
netbook = (2009)razorscooter;
For those of you too young to remember when the Razor first came on the hipster scene, it was back in the late 90s, and could easily be used as a sign of dot com excess. Everyone, it seemed, had one of these things, and yet no one, it seemed, was actually riding them. People carried them around, or you had them in offices (for what purpose I don’t know, but I do know I was scooting to a meeting for which I was late when I saw my future wife sitting in the lobby of my dot com job). Everyone had to have one of these things. Then, just as quickly as they appeared, they largely disappeared from that scene. Sure, you still see them around, and they are certainly for sale, but there’s no flash there. The cool factor was gone once the lack of utility settled in.
The same fate awaits the netbook. Let’s start with the issues. I don’t care what people say about the use cases, the screen resolution for me, is the single biggest limiting factor for netbooks. I suppose you can blame Microsoft and the new Ribbon UI element, but screen real estate is at a super premium on these netbooks. I found that there were Flash ads which were designed to be 600 pixels high, and because of toolbars and what not in my browser, the “close window” text for the ad was below the fold, and the ad scrolled with the page. Ugh!
Second, the Atom processor is not a suitable option for productivity software. If you do anything remotely resembling serious browsing (more than a few tabs open) or have Outlook + a large PST file, forget about bringing your computer out from sleepy time. Anytime I opened my machine and Outlook went to synch, the pain and suffering was acute. Even worse if you hadn’t opened the machine for a day or so and had a bunch of meeting reminders pop up. I also found that if I had 2 Office apps open, the context switching was sometimes painful.
Lastly, and this is the one that really irks me, the battery life was awful. For such a small machine, and wimpy processor, the default battery would last 2 hours at most. Not even enough for 2 meetings without having to travel with the power brick. I borrowed someone’s 6 cell battery, and that made it marginally more tolerable. When you think about how long a batter on the new MacBook Pro 13” lasts, the 2 pound trade off for the MBP is well worth the extra 5 hours of battery life. Plus the bigger screen. Yes, it’s more expensive, but I think the $300 price point isn’t going to be enough once people use these machines more and more, and come to realize their many shortcomings.
Ultimately I believe people was smaller/lighter form factors, but will grow tired of the toy factor. You can get a decent laptop for $600. I am not sure what market space the netbook ultimately occupies.