Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Netbook has fewer letters than notebook, but the difference may be much greater

Way back in 2000, I was working on something for my employer that necessitated the use of a portable computing device. We looked at a particular Sony VAIO, which was a small but fully functional notebook computer (albeit with a truncated screen).

These small computers have come a long way in the last nine years, to the point that netbooks have become an established part of the market. Heck, you can buy them in Office Max and Costco now.

And, like phones, netbooks are being offered really cheap in promotional deals:

AT&T announced [last] Tuesday that customers in Atlanta could get a type of compact PC called a netbook for just $50 if they signed up for an Internet service plan — an offer the phone company may introduce elsewhere after a test period. This year, at least one wireless phone company in the United States will probably offer netbooks free with paid data plans, copying similar programs in Japan, according to industry experts.

But there's a catch:

New Ericsson-brand mobile 3G data modules apparently have something called a “kill pill” that’s capable of disabling a computer remotely in the instance that a customer doesn’t pay his or her bill or cancels a credit card used to pay monthly charges.

These chipsets will be found in netbooks subsidized by AT&T....

Although there's debate about how AT&T would actually use this capability, it should be noted that Verizon doesn't have the ability to kill my Motorola Q. Although Verizon can obviously cut off my service, it can't prevent me from playing Bubble Breaker or whatever.

Back to the netbook itself, from the previously cited New York Times article:

Personal computers — and the companies that make their crucial components — are about to go through their biggest upheaval since the rise of the laptop. By the end of the year, consumers are likely to see laptops the size of thin paperback books that can run all day on a single charge and are equipped with touch screens or slide-out keyboards....

“The era of a perfect Internet computer for $99 is coming this year,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, the chief executive of Nvidia, a maker of PC graphics chips that is trying to adapt to the new technological order. “The primary computer that we know of today is the basic PC, and it’s dying to be reinvented.”

Currently 80% of netbooks run on Windows XP, and most use Intel Atom chips. But future netbooks may use cellphone processors, which are incapable of running full-fledged Windows...but can run Linux.

Can you see a potential for disruption?

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