back to article Linux weaktops poised for death by smartphone

Smartphones have been around for a long time, but only recently did the laptop industry figure out that it could cut into the market funded solely by tech nerds' f*ck-you money with a compound word of its own: netbook. A computer that carries light on the hardware and is designed to run programs provided as network resources is …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Robert Ramsay

    There's one vital thing here:

    Screen size. "Smartphone" implies something too small to see properly without special reformatting (thank you Opera Mini) where as "Netbook" (or "Minibook" or whatever) has a screen big enough to use. If it's small enough to fit in your pocket, its screen will be too small for a large percentage of anything you would normally use a computer for.

    And then there's the keyboard...

  2. Jerome
    Thumb Down

    Weaktops? Weak argument

    "Making a business case for one of these things is hard, because for a few hundred dollars more, you can buy a full-featured laptop."

    Making a business case for one of these things is easy - it's tiny. I can actually carry it around with me, and therefore get to use it occasionally. Contrast this with a nice heavy laptop requiring its own bag, which is far too much hassle to lug around and just ends up left on the desk.

    Besides, you're vastly overstating how underpowered these devices are. I've yet to come across a single thing I can't do on my netbook (and no, I haven't tried video editing). Claiming that they're only good for browsing the web is entirely ingenuous.

    I'm all for this new breed of smartphone you talk about; an all-in-one device that will fit in my pocket would be great. Now if someone could just release one which has a good UI and a decent range of features, but doesn't require me to lease my soul to St. Jobs to acquire it, I'd be first in line.

    In the mean time, I'm pretty happy with my Acer Aspire One, thanks all the same.

  3. Simon Langley
    Thumb Down

    Weaktop indeed - what bilge

    I own an iPhone and an Acer Aspire One and there is no way that the iPhone will replace my laptot. Firstly, text input is painful at best. It is OK for a short message but nothing else. Secondly, the screen is just too small to be able to stand in for a laptot.

    The fact is that my Aspire One is very portable and does most of what I want a laptop to do most of the time. It simply isn't true that all it's suited to is web browsing and email. Any device is a compromise, but the iPhone and laptots are different compromises and I could not do half the things I use my Aspire One for on an iPhone. I spent a few hours last night programming in Python for example, try that on an iPhone.

    Try showing a presentation, writing a letter, programming and so on with a phone. Even just using Skype is beyond it.

    Quite why the author is so negative about laptots is not obvious, but that this is no more than a propaganda piece is made clear by the silly use of the word "weaktop". What an inaccurate and linguistically foolish use of English.

  4. Thomas Swann
    Black Helicopters

    "As destructive as it's going to be, the Rise of the Machines will be strangely satisfying. "

    I knew! Ted is a minion of the LA and has been all along!

    He must be stopped.

  5. Eric Van Haesendonck
    Thumb Down

    A netbook is a dsplay device, not a computer or smarphone.

    I think that the netbook segment is not too much in danger from full size laptops or smartphones, and here is why:

    Against full size laptops there is clearly a size and weight issue: people that buy netbooks are not willing to carry a 6 pound 15 inch laptop, otherwise they would probably have bought one already since they are not that much more expensive than a netbook. I bet that most netbook users also have a desktop at home or in the office for the times when they need to do heavy processing. Netbooks are portable additions to your computing arsenal, not the main piece.

    Against the smartphone there is also a size issue, but the other way around: it's too small and doesn't have a proper keyboard. the web is designed for a screen 800 or 1024 pixels wide, and it's impossible to cram that kind of resolution on a screen less than 6 or 7 inches without making the whole thing unreadable. Beside most netbooks are also useful offline to arrange pictures in picassa, read pdf brochures, edit word documents, read ebooks etc... for anybody who isn't connected constantly a netbook is better than a smartphone.

    I think the nebook will continue to occupy a fairly large market of users who want a computer smaller than a full size laptop but still big enough to display documents, videos, pictures and web pages with ease. the netbook is a display device, the smartphone is a communication device. The only way I can see this changing is if smartphones start coming up with some kind of foldable screen and keyboard.

  6. Jez Caudle
    Thumb Up

    Ruby On Rails

    I have Ruby On Rails running on my Acer Aspire One and it uses SQLite by default, not MySQL.

    The thrust of the piece is totally acurate. I have both an Acer and an iPhone. Why? Because I can...

  7. Joe

    "cheap, underpowered laptop.""

    "it's now "all you really need is a cheap, underpowered laptop.""

    yep, that's correct, that's all many people do need when on the road. Though you should have added 'small but not with teeny tiny screen and keyboard (e.g. unlike like a smartphone' .

    'underpowered is in the eye of the beholder, but who needs a 3Ghz battery munching chip just to read email.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Not Quite

    > "The internet terminal computer started as a classic imaginary problem that engineers wanted to solve"

    No, you mean, "... that marketing types wanted to solve". The engineers were quite happy in the back room playing video games, thankyou very much, until some pin-striped marketing type with nostrils still crusty from the bolivian marching powder sashays in and says "What we need is sexy, cute, in-your-face, hip, notebook-like computer that ....". Cue groans and rolling eyeballs from the engineers .....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Let me get this straight..., weaktops/netbooks are going to collapse because consumers don't like linux. Except that consumers according to you don't have money to spend on frivolous aspects. Only they do have that money if it's for spending on smartphones, which are somehow less frivolous than netbooks. Only we're talking about techies. Except not real techies who'd probably quite like a small cheap laptop running linkus, but rather "techies" who think that impressing people at what used to be their local Starbucks is the most important thing about their hardware.


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smartphones worse than netbooks in almost every way

    Imagine a nice beautiful small long-battery-life phone plus a WiFI netbook.

    1) Mmm, with my netbook I have a big enough screen and keyboard to see stuff and do stuff. (And on those very few occasions when I just *have* to have the internet, and there's no Wiffy, i go to my little phone.)

    2) and oh yes, as for doing all that voice-call business - yes, my beautiful and appropriate little phone does that.

    But if instead I use a smartphone for everything -- then yes, it always has the internet, but it's a deeply unpleasant experience, every time. It's crap at browsing, crap at typing, and it's crap as a mobile for voice use (big, ugly, crap battery).

    The smartphone: half car, half lawn-mower. What's not to like?

  11. Andrew Moore

    Go on, tell us then...

    "That's funny. I know of another device that can't support much beyond web browsing and checking e-mail, but is backed by the full faith and credit of Steve Jobs's divinity."

    It's a MacBook, isn't it.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I don't agree

    It's the two different form factors that are the most important, not so much the hardware spec and software design, though these will still improve.

    The one is an A5 to A4 size screen that you can carry in your bag and comfortably read on and input into. The other is something that is pocketable and you can do comms and take pictures but you don't want to read a book or watch a movie or write something long on.

  13. Edward Miles


    The reason I have a netbook and not a smart phone is simple: A Keyboard. Yeah the eee et al have miniture keyboards, but they're still infinitely easier to type on than a smart phone. Try making a long blog post, a long email or anything similar on a smart phone, and you'll feel like you have arthritis within ten minutes. Plus they're much more useful for troubleshooting people's wifi networks, another major use to which I put me eee :)

  14. spegru

    Things the smartphones will struggle with

    Proper Keyboards

    Capability to run much bigger screen or a full external screen

    Office software


    Skype - yes that's a Killer app

    USB ports

    Proper browser



    Yes there's a threat but it's not from smartphones - it's from bigger laptops and (spit) win xp


  15. Jim


    I would rather have matches put under my fingernails than write a letter to my accountant on a 2.5 inch screen. And I can't think of a reason to carry arround a PC in my pocket, sensitive personal data and all. No, smart phones are not practical. Smart phones are in fact bought by the same gadget enthusiasts you dismissed as the only customers for weaktops

    Smart phones are the moden equivalent of of the digital watch pen. Back in 1982 people would stand around in groups and go "oooooh!" when shown a pen with a digital watch built into the barrel. Useless of course, but they had that aura of desirability.

    Weaktops, on the other hand, have a real market among middle-aged folks who want to store their photos, and a few music tracks, in a place where they are safe from the kids who have already monopolised and wrecked the family PC. And they can be used, at a pinch, for home office computing, most of which could be accomplished on a 486. Like writing a letter to my accountant, for example.

    Smartphones - really interesting short term, completely useless

    Weaktops - really rather usefull, completely boring

    Oh and it was nice to see wheeled out that oft-repeated and most devastating of Linux counter-arguments, viz. that the sysadmin smells. I am a sysadmin and I am wearing an ironed shirt, Lynx deoderant and a rather nice pair of Loakes. I thank you.

  16. Rachel Greenham

    difference is netbooks *can* function without the net

    Example: I have my complete work java development environment set up on my Aspire One (with Ubuntu). Should I need to, and it has happened, I can push bugfix software updates out from that whereever I am. Sure it's a lot *slower* than developing on my iMac, and I can't splash source code windows all over the screen but in a pinch I *can* get the work done. The netbook *can* stretch to it (in fact it's not even hard, you just need a little patience and to remember that it's still faster than your desktop machine of a few years ago). I don't think there's a smartphone that can do that. A smartphone is what it is and you're stuck with it. The netbook can stretch.

    For non-programmers, I'd hazard that the continuing popularity of over Google Office Apps probably means the same applies for them too. OOo 3.0 runs fine on these machines...

  17. David Burton


    I'd agree that the original Eee is too limited. However, the 9-10 inch netbooks have a resolution more viable for simple everyday computing, and most of these have 1GB of RAM, leaving XP reasonably happy to do its business, at least so long as you don't get too optimistic.

    Having said that, there are entirely separate reasons to take an interest in a netbook. Let's see, decent battery life and small size - note-taking in classrooms or lectures, ebook reader, movie player, porn browser, etc... applications where the larger screen and/or reasonable-sized keyboard offer a clear advantage over smartphones.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a smartphone user rather than a netbook user, but typing any serious amount on an E71 is rather more taxing than on a proper keyboard, and the screen just isn't big enough for media playback. There's a degree of convergence, and I can see the specialised portable DVD and media players as the first casualties, as the smaller of their kind are picked off by smartphones and the larger by netbooks. Ebook readers such as the sony device will also look overpriced compared to surfing/colour/movie-capable netbooks, and may also find it hard to enter the market.

    As people have less money to spend, netbooks will lose some who no longer have enough to spend, but will gain others who decide a netbook will suffice over a more expensive laptop, so it remains to be seen how much they'll get hit.

  18. GB
    Paris Hilton

    A point well missed

    I shall shortly be purchasing one of those nifty Acer Aspire Ones. I'm not a gadget freak or a Linux 'fanboy', I just have a need for a laptop that can do Office (Open or Microsoft, I'm not too fussed) for one and a half hours on the train, morning and evening to do work on the move - and not much else really.

    It's got to be light, robust and reliable. It doesn't have to be powerful. It doesn't even need to be permanently-net-connected, really (the idea of a netbook always connected to the internet is just hype).

    I have a laptop at home - it's far too big and heavy. I don't want to spend a fortune to fulfill this limited need: spending £400 instead of £200 is £200 wasted because if I want mor processor power I have it in the office and at home.

    Netbooks are popular because they fulfill certain people's *needs*. End of.

    And what's all that about smartphones? How does that help me get work done on the move (not all of us have a need to answer email 24/7)?

    Paris Hilton - cos she's clearly much smarter - and a deeper thinker - than this Dzuiba geezer...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Weaktops? Nice term.

    But I reckon they should be "failtops" to go with the general Dziuba theme.

    Nice article, this is my new favourite part of the Reg.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I think you've mis-understood this issue

    Apparantly saying "that's bollocks" isn't business-ese enough....

    I would argue that there wasn't a target audience for netbooks; Asus (and everyone else) have been surprised by the success of the eee PC.

    One of the groups that's picked up on netbooks is the "yoof" community that are migrating from Nintendo DS and PSP to something that will do social networking stuff.; they aren't expecting to run MS Office or MySQL so the operating system and lack of horsepower aren't an issue, whereas the low cost is. Forget Mactards and expensive 3G contracts, we're talking about the unwashed masses and free Wi-Fi in MacDonalds.

  21. David Hicks
    Thumb Down



    Netbooks are perfectly capable machines, the eee901 has huge battery life and lets me, watch movies on the plane, check email, do web stuff and write documents.

    Actually, most of the non-heavyweight stuff I want to do with any computer. On top of that, it boots in no time at all so it's prefect to have in the living room as a google/wiki machine for answering all those "wasn't he in ... ?" questions that arise when you're watching the telly.

    Could I have got a full laptop for a couple of quid more? Sure, but I would have got something bigger, heavier, worse battery life and less resistant to being thrown around.

    If linux is the issue, then sure, I have begun to hate Xandros, it was badly set up and doesn't have all the geek tools I wanted. Plus the update process is always failing. The problem for non geeks is more to do with "It won't run iTunes", "where's Microsoft Office?" and "what's a firefox?"

    but then they're non-geeks, so who gives a crap about them?

  22. Chris

    A title is required.

    "After all, the Eee PC isn't powerful enough to run MySQL and Ruby on Rails ..."

    That's odd. I run PostgreSQL, Java and Tomcat on mine so I'm sure it could run MySQL and Ruby on Rails. It's not blisteringly quick, but combined with the convenience of the Eee (it fits in the inside pocket of my leather jacket) it's handy for knocking together bugfixes remotely, after SSH'ing into the servers to diagnose the problem.

  23. Bill Cumming
    IT Angle

    Tecnically this is not about "failbooks"

    It's about "fail-intel" the Atom is one of the worst chips ever to be produced. it's way to power hungry, doubles has a hotplate (if you fancy a fired egg with your chips!) and way to slow to be any use...

    I'm just waiting to see how the new ARM's fare....

  24. Chris Johnson
    Thumb Down

    Road to Damascus

    I bought a Maplins MiniBook a couple of months ago. I thought it was going to be a toy. It turned out to be surprisingly usable and, once a VNC client was installed, enabled me to do everything I could on my desktop system because I could run my desktop system from it. Less than 700 gm and can be squeezed into a pocket. It has taken over from my Dell Latitude d420 anytime I travel without a car.

  25. Phil Endecott

    Games, maybe?

    Under-powered? No. My Eee 901 is the fastest computer I own. I can hardly imagine why anyone would need anything faster. Oh, except for games of course, and a few things like video editing. Can someone enlighten me as to what else I'm missing with this "underpowered" computer?

  26. Mark Honman

    Real life non-geek use

    We have a non-geek (but smart) friend who ditched his smartphone in favor of an AA1 which he carries *everywhere*.

    The neighbours' kids all want one for Christmas.

    And the obligatory IT angle, the geek writing this is a bit clumsy and has put both a Clie PDA and the wife's AA1 to the involuntary drop -from-table-height test - of the two, the AA1 is the one still working.

    Give the chipmakers a year and we'll be seeing Pentium-M performance levels from these toys, still at the £200 price point. Sweet... especially if one can has 20" widescreens at home and office to plug into.

    For those sufficiently well off, the future is something like that - carry your life around and plug in the usual peripherals wherever you stop. And a Mac Mini with a few terabytes of external storage at home, for doing the media stuff.

  27. The Badger

    Keep up at the back

    In the rise of the machines Ted Dziuba would be a robot capable of morphing into Ted Douchebag in an instant. After one or two pieces which weren't totally off the mark, Ted returns with a tired piece parroting the tired "that'll never sell" nonsense that was the conventional wisdom before Asus showed everyone that netbooks do actually sell, probably making a bunch of people wonder why they'd listened to the pundits all these years.

  28. Jonathan Dow
    Thumb Down

    Another vote of 'what a load of bollocks'

    Ditto what the majority of posters have written - that's a truly shoddy article.

    For the record, the term 'netbook' actually came into being with the Psion product of the same name, circa 1999.

    And 'weaktops' is a pathetic term, you may as well complain you can't hammer nails in with a screwdriver, the issue is about fit-for-purpose, and the author seems to be a little confused about what purpose he's writing about...

  29. William Towle

    Education needed, nothing more

    Without getting into technicalities like whether you've tried running MySQL and Ruby on Rails on an EeePC, if you've "got this hunch that consumers may be cutting back spending in the shit-they-don't-need category of goods" and "a smartphone that gets more powerful [is] just an excuse to spend more money" then aren't netbook and smartphone sales *both* going to suffer in the climate? Jobs wouldn't be in favour of product diversification, and it's no great surprise it turns out he isn't.

    As for "making a business case for one of these [netbook]s is hard, because for a few hundred dollars more, you can buy a full-featured laptop": well, quite. When was there a general-consumer case for getting an overpowered electric typewriter (latter cases of "it also does games" notwithstanding?).

    I don't see netbooks going into wide use in business, either. Schools, maybe, but wasn't that the point? The problem we've currently got is that we reached the point (at last) where machines exist to cover the niches all the way up from internet and light-business use but there's a distinct lack of salespeople able to convey the sudden difference in the low/middle end to the man on the street (and some hardware teething troubles).

    I for one don't want a smartphone, nor do I want my netbook with me at all times. Some folks might want one or both. Who knows? Why force a choice? Different strokes for different folks :)

  30. michael

    it dose everyting my laptop dose

    the netbooks I am looking to get run XP so I KNOW I can use thinks like usb memory stciks bluetoof adaptors etc and they are a Proper computer so I can stick my memoy stick in on the train write a doc or save a pic of the internet and take it out at the end of te trip and plug it into my computer on my desk and it opens find

    to me that is the BIG diffrence between a net book is a netbook runs the same os as a desktop

  31. h4rm0ny

    Not all bad

    The article isn't all bad. It is correct that there is a threat to netbooks from the laptop market. But I'm fairly confident it isn't particularly threatened by the smartphone market. The reasoning behind that statement is that the overlap between smartphones and netbooks is much smaller than the writer thinks. They may both connect you to your email, but you need a netbook for writing anything serious, reading articles or webpages properly. You can do these things on a smartphone, but it's hard to argue that you can do them anywhere near as easily. And then there are things that you shouldn't even contemplate doing on a smartphone such as spreadsheets. So smartphones threatening netbooks, not much - people buy what is appropriate to them. But laptops threatening netbooks I get because laptops are getting lighter and, I suspect, cheaper over the next year. There will still be people who want to cycle around time or run to work with their netbook in their backpack, or students who want to walk around with it all day in a big baggy pocket. Netbooks will be fine for them. But for most people, a ultra-slim laptop will be better value and as netbooks are already expensive enough that they count as a non-casual purchase, people are likely to spend the extra on what they need.

    Netbooks will stick around, but the hype will die down soon, I think.

  32. John White

    Wrong; wrong ; wrong!

    The author has completely missed the point and I award a big FAIL to the assessment. I have owned laptops in the past; several in fact but have given up using them

    too big (try it on a train; plane.....)

    too heavy

    too short a battery life

    weak components - screen; hard disk- HARD DISK !!

    underpowered compared to most peeps desktop at work (or home)


    So called "weaktops" are like the Psion netBook

    smaller but easily used keyboard/screen

    more robust (NO HARD DISK)

    relatively long battery life


    apps "just good enough" for letter writing; basic touch-up my photos; running website etc

    Smartphones (I have a nokia 9500) is fine for "have to type a reasonably argued email"/desperate for internet use and good as a PIM platform. But it (and other smartphones are available) has a pale imitation of a browser that glacially slow at rendering. I know it's the smartphone app's fault - not good enough for the job for nay realistic use for any length of time (add in the mangling that mobile browsers do to websites and.....). Alternatively; GPRS via smartphone linked to netBook = *very* acceptable mobile internet. And it (Eee PC) all can be carried as as A5-book-size parcel all day and in my pocket (phone). Just not possible with a "real" laptop.

    Background: 10years+ with Psion netBook and Nokia 6310i

    Enough said

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    " figure out how to get a stripper's tit-glitter out of his hair (hint: shower twice)."

    Just HOW do you know this?

    I think the country (and your wife!) needs to know...... :-)

    Paris, coz even she wants to know.......

  34. michael

    hold on

    where did the idar that a netbook JUST dose internet a netbook dose everything a 3 yearold laptop dose (the eee 901 is the same spec as the old dells we use in my office) and seames it runs xp it does exactley the same stuff

  35. frymaster

    I see why people are objecting but the readership of El Reg isn't representative

    Money permitting, I'd quite happily have a smartphone, a weaktop, a laptop and a desktop, because they fit different niches (very portable, quite portable, I want to do serious work elsewhere, I want to play games), but I am not typical. Joe Public isn't going to want all 4, and your average businessman will probably have 2. One has to make phone calls, and the other has to be suitable for using in his office, so that's a smartphone and a laptop then. The other niches don't have enough extra benefit, especially considering the smartphone, the weaktop and the two computers will have at least 3 different UIs.

  36. Steve
    Thumb Down


    Broken? I've posted on this one twice and nothing is appearing.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo



    And @Joe "but who needs a 3Ghz battery munching chip just to read email?" - isn't that the Vista population?

    I think Ted's got a point - unless I can do everything I ever want to do on a weaktop I need a second laptop, and if I can do everything I need to on the move with a smartphone I'm done.

    I'm done.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    @David Hicks - This is why Ted is right

    The last 2 paragraphs of your post are a potted summary of the non-geek experience:

    "If linux is the issue, then sure, I have begun to hate Xandros, it was badly set up and doesn't have all the geek tools I wanted. Plus the update process is always failing. The problem for non geeks is more to do with "It won't run iTunes", "where's Microsoft Office?" and "what's a firefox?"

    but then they're non-geeks, so who gives a crap about them?"

    That's why shitloads of them got returned to Carphone Warehouse and why ultimately Ted is right and these things won't carve out the market that their makers would like.

    Most of the commenters on this article are springing to the defence of their favourite toy, which is fine, I can see the attraction. But the geek market just isn't big enough to give these things critical mass.

  39. gsl

    @ Jim 13:18

    "I am a sysadmin and I am wearing an ironed shirt, Lynx deoderant and a rather nice pair of Loakes. "

    So you're just wearing a shirt, a pair of loafers and deodorant, and this is meant to show that sysadmins have social skills? I can't wait for the update from dress down Friday .

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cheap and light. Duh!

    Consumers want a laptop that is light, cheap, and easy to read and type on. Smartphones are light. Laptops are easy to read and type on. So what's wrong is either that it isn't possible to do all three, or that makers just don't get it.

    Well, there's a third possibility too. Maybe the software available is so pathetic that a gigahertz processor, gigabyte RAM, and kilo-miliwatt battery isn't enough to make the thing go. How could that be? The OLPC folks are trying for all three. I don't think they're there yet. They were close but then they took windows on board, so maybe in acouple more generations...

    My next laptop will be

    1. under 1kg

    2. minimum full-laptop sized keyboard

    3. minimum 12" display; nice and bright please

    4. minimum 10gig solid state hard drive. 40 would be better.

    5. around US$500.

    6. runs useful software (so no OLPC then). Windows or Linux (so no smartphone software then).

    7. no stupid surprises; adequate cpu horsepower, reasonable battery life, reasonable connectivity, reasonable peripherals, etc.

    I've decided to wait until these specs are available, so any maker hoping to pull themselves out of the recession with my dollars better listen up.

    Y'know, we're almost there.

  41. Mad Hacker
    Thumb Up

    Spot on!

    This article is 100% correct. I've been wondering why weakbooks even sell! All I could figure is I'm not the average consumer (which I'm not) so I have to just accept that I don't understand people who buy weakbooks.

    I have a smart phone. It browses well. I can take notes on it etc. The display is fine for both video and text and web pages. The only thing that it could possibly use is support for a real bluetooth keyboard if I was to say type for a long time with it. But actually I don't have that need very often. When I do have access to a computer, I need a 1920x1200 screen, and the ability to do whatever I may want at the time (Photoshop, MS Office, page layout, video editing, compiling/debugging, etc.)

    I have a laptop in my family room that's probably used a bit like a netbook for browsing and looking up IMDB info while watching movies, but guess what? It always ends up getting used for things a netbook couldn't just because it's more convenient then going upstairs to the desktop. So say hello to video editing and some quick code debugging and photoshopping. Things that if I had a weakbook simply wouldn't be on the table. The funny thing is, if I had a weakbook, I probably wouldn't have noticed how it was hindering me because I never planned on using the laptop in the family room for these other things. But since it is powerful enough and allows one to be with the kids while getting some work done, its duties grew to more then what a weakbook could handle.

    Anyway, while most of the comments don't agree with you, I think you're 100% correct. I've felt the same way and don't understand the people who buy underpowered tech that will only hold them back.

  42. Skr0t3m

    You seem pretty sure have the market demographics nailed. With a sample size of one surely there must be some doubt in your mind? Or are you just so c*ck sure?

    I've never had the slightest interest in a smartphone - ever. Screen is too half-arsed to be useful, keyboard (if even present) is unusable, phone is too big to be carried everywhere as a phone. In short, for something that needs to be small and pocketable 99% of the time it fails 'cause its too big, and the other 1% of the time when you want to use it as a computer, it fails too because the keyboard and screen are next to f*ing microscopic.

    Counter that with a weaktop - too little grunt to tackle 5% (10,20 or even 30% - I'm feeling generous) of the heavier workloads, but good enough for more than most things. Small enough to throw in a small bag (lets face it, even most smartphones don't site as easily in a pocket as the manufacturer would like it to) and with a screen and keyboard just big enough to get the job done.

    You mentioned something about pitching the same thing over and over again (I don't have the words in front now, Reg comment system conveniently "hides" them while posting - must be a feature) until acceptance grows - colour me stupid but I think that's the smartphone market you're talking about.

    I for one find a weaktop actually useful (yes I have, and I use one). Am I a lone exception, or possibly one in a demographic that may help to expain the recent success in this area? WTF?

  43. Dave Bell

    Kid's today...

    The article started going downhill when ti referred to Linux users as "freetards", a word The Register has so often used for the alleged downloaders of alleged music of alleged dubious legality.

    Though it's probably true that Q4 sales of these low-end notebooks are going to be down. Q4 sales of everything are going to be down. And, just in case nobody has noticed, outfits such as the multi-headed marketing hydra of DSG are being undercut on this hardware by toyshops.

    But what really grates are the assumptions about necessary computer power. I'm typing this com/ment on a machine which, less than a decade ago, would have been incredibly powerful. Whether the design is coming from the smartphone end or the N-book end, these are the high-end compuiters of an unimaginablke sci-fi world of supersonic passenger flight and men walking on the moon.

    Tell young people about that today, and they just don't beieve you.

    If I'm a freetard for spending good money on a machine that comes with Linux installed. what's the word for all those people who insist on frying their thighs with a machine that runs Windows Vista. Given their over-cooked nether egions, just where might we think they keep their brains?

    But, in the end, it's getting the right machine for the job, hardware and software, and I've had more problems adapting to using Mozilla than in coping with the pointy-clicky differences there are between Windows and Linux.

    And, from all I've seen so far, with the hype-machine starting for Windows 7, I'd want to see a more resoned dismissal of Linux than a shout of "freetards".

  44. Hans Mustermann

    @Not Quite

    Actually, sad to say, there are quite a few techies which suffer from techno-utopianism. That misguided belief that the 'net is the alpha and omega, the best thing that happened to humanity since inventing writing, and that a billion monkeys twitting to each other and editing each other's wiki pages will user in an a golden age of enlightenment and progress like you've never seen before. It will solve world hunger, cure AIDS and cancer, etc. And verily the same guys who can't even write a page worth reading otherwise, will produce literary works better than Goethe, Shakespeare and Homer put together, if you put them on a networked computer.

    To be nasty: I guess when your only "life" is online, and it's the only place where anyone takes you seriously, it's easy to fall to the delusion that that's the real thing and RL was just an unfortunate prelude to it.

    To be sure, there are plenty of marketroids too, who just see it as "target market segment." Not going to disagree with you there. But among those techies that you mention as rolling their eyes, there'll be one who's already getting delusions of it being the thing that triggers the next golden age of humanity.

  45. Steven H Taylor

    Netbooks vs Smartphones

    One key aspect of this battle remarkably appears to be overlooked here:

    A netbook (even a 10" model including Windows XP, MS Works and the lot) is still significantly cheaper than a decent smartphone like an iPhone or HTC Touch family member like the Diamond, Pro or HD.

  46. Warhelmet
    Thumb Down

    So what?

    Smart phones? For me, carrying a smartphone would be like having an albatross hung round my neck. Ignore the Jesus-Phone for a mo. The real evil of smart phones is push-email. I can't think of a more productivity sapping development. Executive management do little enough real work as it is with all those stupid meetings they go to. Give them smartphones and they'll never do anything again.

    I do get real work done on my Eee PC 701. Although the keyboard is small, I can work with it, but I've got long slim fingers. Sausage handed friends struggle. The relatively low power of the CPU is not an issue when you consider how much of what people do with PCs is not particularly processor intensive.

    It's changed the way I work. I used to make lots of notes on paper and never do anything with them - retyping handwritten notes is not something that I enjoy. The incredibly fast start up time means that I can start typing in seconds- try doing that with a normal laptop. And I can put the notes to use.

    I've got a PDA as well and I did use it with an infra-red keyboard with it, but the apps with Windows Mobile are crippleware compared to using a proper office suite on a laptot.


  47. Steve
    Thumb Down

    Math and You

    "The intended target was people who can do all of their computing with web applications, but the actual target was people who are into gadgets and have $300 to burn. Making a business case for one of these things is hard, because for a few hundred dollars more, you can buy a full-featured laptop."

    A "few hundred dollars" more than $300 is a price increase of two thirds. Or to put it another way, these netbooks are only 60% of the price of a "full-featured" laptop and yet the only feature I seem to be missing is a graphics processor capable of running modern games - for which I already have a desktop with a large screen anyway!

    And as "they don't want to learn Linux", don't tell them it's Linux and they won't complain. The technophobic windowphiles you're worried about have either seen my EEE PC running ubuntu and said "Oh wow, it's like a Mac" or they've seen the stock Xandros install and been impressed by how simple it was to use.

    The whole article sounds like some kid whining to his parents about how absolutely imperative it is that he get's the Action Man figure with the Kung-Fu grip instead of the normal non-gripping version.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    This article is somewhat tounge in cheek I guess..

    ..or good old-fashioned trollbait.

    Asking "who wants to buy a family hatch-back when you could buy an articulated lorry or a moped?" makes about as much sense as this article.

  49. variant
    Thumb Down

    Shit article

    This is a randomly generated news story using buzzwords and negativity designed to attract readers who might want to leave an equally pointless comment. I think I will stop reading thereg

  50. Jeffrey Clulow

    More extendable than a smartphone

    As been mentioned previously, netbooks are extendable, with standard USB slots (and an ExpressCard/34 slot in the Lenovo S10), whereas smartphones are much more limited in that regard. You can add in a wireless broadband widget of some sort, and have essentially the same capabilities as a smartphone, only with a keyboard that's much easier to actually type on, plus considerably more storage space and computing power, and a wider range of potentially useful software.

    The only advantage smartphones have is that they're small enough to fit into a coat pocket, or (judiciously) tossed into a briefcase, and used on the go more conveniently.

    I believe that there's a decent market for netbooks, and another decent one for smartphones, as well. One note I might add is that I've been looking at netbooks recently, but have had no desire to get a smartphone.

    Mine's the longcoat with the 10" pocket in the lining.

  51. Sitaram Chamarty

    aiming for FoTW...

    ...not really, but got your attention, didn't I?

    What's up Teddie? You used to be cogent enough to let people tolerate the juvenile language, so what's with this piece? Admit it, you didn't even **attempt** to think through this one. Touch of the flu or something? Weather got you down?

    Seriously, this is the most moronic, rambling, fsck-witted article you've written to date.

    Try using an Aspire or an Eee, try travelling with it, shoving it in one corner of a smallish overnight bag (protected by clothes and stuff) and lugging it around 3 airports.

    Sure I wouldn't run Matlab on it (or video editing, as someone said) but I can do pretty much anything I can't do without for a few days.

    I've got nothing against smartphones but they're too small to be usable exclusively on a 3-day business trip. One needs a little more power than that.

    If anything, I'd say that the regular laptops will take a beating. For people who don't absolutely live on the road and spend significant time in an office can use a normal desktop when tethered and a netbook when traveling.


  52. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    What about all the returned XP machines?

    According to Jerry Shen (CEO of Asus), returns of Linux machines is equal to returns of XP machines. He also said Asus sell equal numbers with each operating system (for machines capable of running both). Small cheap computers are not an idea from Marketing. Marketing hate them because the margins are too slim. These boxes exists because OLPC showed it was possible and popular and because there are big markets (China and India) for something far cheaper than a £350 laptop.

    I do agree that small cheap computers are over priced. They sell despite that because they are useful. There are rumours that the prices will fall. Add a pixel qi daylight readable screen, and I will buy. My current laptop drowns out low flying aircraft if I give it any serious work to do. I already ssh my desktop for big tasks. At least a netbook will not deafen me if I accidently start something complicated.

    PS: I shower every day and I do not download illegally distributed music or films.

  53. Thorsten
    Dead Vulture




  54. Richard Kilpatrick

    Respectfully, bollocks.

    I've got a Flipstart - the little machine El Reg loved to ignore - that is a 1.1GHz Pentium M with a 5.6" screen and 512Mb RAM. It's currently using XP SP3 as the OS and it will happily - and usefully - run Lightroom. I've run InDesign on it, though the screen size makes that purely an exercise in "because it can".

    The Acer Aspire One has an arguably faster CPU, a more comfortable screen size and keyboard, and cost - at launch - 1/5th of the price.

    As for not running MySQL - I've got servers that are a fraction of the grunt. I have no idea what planet the author is originally from, but they've landed here in 2008 apparently with no historical knowledge at all.

  55. Anonymous Coward


    ...this sounds very much to me like a "Waaah! I wan't a netbook but my boss won't let me have one on the company! What can I do? Oh yes, trash them 'cos I didn't really want one anyway. I'm truly happy with my brick of a smart phone, of course I am..."

    Making a business case for one is easy - ask, point out the pros and cons as well as the cost difference over a laptop based on the use it's intended for. Web based applications plus easy portability? Win.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My old Nokia N93 drives a TV or projector quite nicely for those "oh shit I'm stuck in this hotel / board room" moments.

    It doesn't have any problems with wifi although the range isn't great.

    I can edit text quite easily, especially with a bluetooth keyboard; I can even email/MMS it as a pdf, something my Windows box seems to have huge problems with

    I can see how the lack of USB would be a problem but it's not one I've ever had.

    Never really got into VOIP so I can't help you there although I was under the impression that there was a mobile version.

    I use the default browser. The browser itself is fine although whoever designed the inital navigation should be shot - it's ok once you've bookmarked everything though. Opera is nice for quick browsing of media sites.

    I'm waiting for a matchbox projector that generates a picture from one end and a keyboard from the other. I give it 12 months.

  57. Robert E A Harvey

    Weaktop? I don't think so

    I just completed a 42 day tour of southern efrica with an HP2133 which I had updated with a 320gB hard disk and OpenSuse 11.0 as the only OS.

    I handled all my business email, wrote long reports, including diagrams and edited photogaphs, published timesheets as pdfs, and downloaded and saved BBC radio programmes to keep me sane. I connectd by wired ethernet, wifi, and with a borrowed 3.5G broadband cell modem. I plugged in a tiny bluetooth adaptor and saved the data from my dying cellphone,using just the software native to Linux.

    The battery has died, but I was offripped when I bought it by a dishonest newyork shop, and it doesn't have the battery it should. A new one is on order.

    I may not bother to collect my full-size company laptop. This worked fine.

  58. Dave Murray
    Thumb Down

    Pull the other one

    "Both devices support the same kinds of light computing: word processing, web browsing, and simple games."

    Word processing on a smartphone? Pull the other one Ted. What speed can you type at on a smartphone? 5 wpm? 10 wpm? How long would it have taken you to write this article on your beloved Jesus phone whilst drinking your Chai Latte? I suspect so long your children would have died of starvation waiting for the resultant paycheck.

    Netbooks fill an actual niche. Most people don't want to do audio/video editing or play games on a PC (they have a Wii for that) and do only want to do email and browsing. For people like my gf it's the perfect device especially since it does what she needs and is small and light enough for her to carry wherever she wants (she's small and has a medical condition so a netbook is much better than a full featured, heavy laptop). Should she suddenly decide she wants to be the next Stephen Spielberg she can try to pry me off my desktop to do her video editing there.

    Smartphones are just shiny gadgets for the easily distracted to waste money on - "oooo shiny." I've had both Windows Mobile and Palm smartphones issued to me by employers and what did I use them for? Making phone calls and very little else.

    Oh and stripper's tit glitter... it's harder to get out than you think. I've found it on my arm weeks and several showers later. (one of my friends used to be a stripper)

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A netbook is just a kind of laptop

    What is a netbook? Does it make any sense to see netbooks as a separate category from laptops?

    I think it doesn't. Netbooks are just laptops with different priorities, namely:

    Prioritize: portability, battery life

    Deprioritize: performance, desktop compatibility

    Arguing about definitions isn't very interesting. I'm more much interested to see whether a lot of people will be running Linux on these things or buying ones with a non-x86 processor (probably ARM in order to run cooler and get a better battery life).

  60. Henry Wertz Gold badge


    I guess I agree, the netbook market "could" feel the squeeze from blown up smartphones. (Note, iPhone isn't a smartphone, you cannot put your own apps on there without jailbreaking. Buying apps through an app store? I can do that on my regular phone, and it doesn't make me consider it a smartphone.) If you give a smartphone a big screen, keyboard, and it's one the user can run their own apps on, it's getting up towards having the specs of a netbook, and it can be sold instead as a smartphone I suppose as long as you can still make calls on it.

    But I think the secrets of the netbooks is:

    1) It *is* a full PC. It's not high-spec, but it's not as slow as you make it out, once you ignore Windows (which to me seems to be sluggish on almost anything). I've run Ubuntu on slow stuff, if you get down to like a P2 it starts to get pretty slow. P3? Fine. You *can* run mysql and etc. on there if you'd like, the same types of optimizations that make mysql able to handle tons of user on a server make it handle a few users fine on a really slow box. Video editing? Mostly disk-I/O limited if it's the typical cutting out scenes and changing the order type stuff (no comment on how good the disk I/O is on netbooks, but the CPU at any rate won't be your problem.)

    2) Cheap. OK, so a full notebook is "just a few hundred dollars more". The netbook is a few hundred dollars to begin with, so this is like a 50-100% price increase. And then you probably end up with a machine with Vista, that is too underpowered to run it (until you spend *another* few hundred to upgrade the RAM and maybe a better video card... or you put Linux on, but are forced into paying the Microsoft tax.) I think, contrary to the claim that a weak economy will lower sales, that it'll in fact increase them, as people that want a notebook will take a long look at the netbooks to save some green.

    3) Linux. Well, once they start putting like Ubuntu Remix (or regular Ubuntu if the screen's big enough), it'll help compared to putting line Linpus or whatever like some have been putting on. It's too bad people don't do the research, and then return the machines.. but they WILL get lots of sales from people who don't want to pay a Microsoft tax. I can get the same Inspiron Mini 9 without Windows as with, and save $40 (and get the Ubuntu I was going to put on in the first place.)

  61. David Hicks

    @evil graham

    Well, if his argument is that netbooks as a whole are doomed to fail - I think my points stand. I now have several non-geek friends that have bought the windows flavours of various netbooks because they want them for travelling around. The battery life and capability are still excellent and they fulfill the niche of portable and cheap.

    If he simply means that the linux ones don't stand a chance then I'd say that if carphone warehouse experienced a 20% (IIRC) return rate then that's still a lot of folks that never had linux before who are happy with it (even if another 30% are unhappy but didn't return it).

    I don't think we're going to have linux-for-the masses in one fell swoop with the introduction of a new tech like the netbook, but every little helps. When manufacturers don't totally screw it up!

    Where's the icon for "meh" ?

  62. John Mansfield
    Thumb Down


    Where do the stat's come from that say the Linux models are returned more often come from. I have seen them quoted but I've also seen stat's quoted that indicate that XP and Linux are returned in about equal numbers. Perhaps people don't know what they are buying.

    My son has a ASUS 701 and uses it constantly, with no Linux training, and he was educated in computers on XP. I have "hacked " it to allow him to use the advanced mode interface but he uses both that and the simple mode with equal facility. I managed to do the mode change and get wireless going in < 20 minutes and I'm not a Unix sysadmin or a geek with undesirable social habits.

    The article started with a conclusion and then proceeded to try and justify that opinion. Perhaps he should have started with a question, given some evidence (quoting sources) and let people come to their own conclusion (which might have agreed with his- NOT). That it would appear was too much work.

  63. J.Wild


    Why can't some smartphone maker buy the rights to the microwriter system?

    It took me about 20 minutes to learn basic typing on the AgendA organiser that I bought in 1989.

    It had a serial port connection to a PC and would duplicate the keyboard.

    I could type faster with it than I'm doing now.

    I would buy another if it could make phone calls.

    For you youngsters here's a picture of one.

  64. Grozbat

    Both winners

    I don't it happening. In fact I see small, light laptops running Windows becoming ubiquitous over the next 2 or 3 years. Smartphones just can't compete with the screen size and keyboard size.

    Smartphones will continue to gain market share in the phone market too.

    The real battle of the future will be where personal data will be stored - on the laptop or smartphone. But enough, I feel the urge to start a blog :)

  65. Christopher Martin
    Thumb Down

    What is this strange word "f*ck"...

    ... and how the fuck do you pronounce it?

    This rant is ludicrous.

    I wanted to be able to carry around a laptop that was smaller, lighter, and cheaper than average. I got an eee 901.

    Sure, I fall into the description of people who are into gadgets and have $500 to burn. Obviously that's going to characterize the early adoption market (which I'm defining as mostly people who bought a netbook because they wanted one, and not because their old laptop crapped out). Most of the market has one working computer and doesn't need to own two. But when eventually, say, my sister needs a new computer, I'll recommend one of these.

    "Weaktop" is a crap description. I'm running Eclipse... try doing that on a dumbphone (yeah, I can make up silly words too). Unless you're a gamer, I'm not sure how this machine could fail your expectations.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture



    paytard troll buzzword excrement

  67. J
    Dead Vulture

    Takes the prize

    Stupidest article I've read in El Reg in a long while. No need for me to repeat all that's been said above (screen, keyboard, weight, etc.?). Just remove it, pretend it never happened. It will be a lesser shame.

    At least the column is aptly named today.

  68. Chris Miller

    Meanwhile, back in the real world

    90% (99% ?) of corporate travellers (a not insignificant segment of the laptop marketplace) need: Office*, a web browser and 1 or 2 key applications (Siebel/SAP/take your pick). The obvious way to provide this is via a Citrix* client running on a thin laptop. No setup, no local storage, so when (NB not if) it is left on a train, nothing is lost except the cost of a replacement.

    This is not a solution for developers or graphics designers, but it will work for the vast majority of businesses. It won't play GTA or movies on a trans-atlantic flight, so you can either work or get some shuteye!

    * Other products are available, but (in the real world) no-one uses them.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Psion Netbook?

    I'm sure that was a great device and all, but did it sell in big numbers?

    I'm not trolling here, I genuinely don't know anything about it. Wikipedia has surprisingly little and I've been to business meetings all over the world and never seen one whipped out in anger.

    So what happened to it?

  70. Thomas Glover
    Thumb Down

    Everything about that blog is wrong

    Much as I love the idea of smartphones and hate myself for thinking the iPhone looks sleek, I would never, EVER buy one. Why? There's too much crap on them.

    I want my phone to send and receive SMS and MMS messages and make and receive phone calls. Beyond that I really couldn't care less what it does. Hell it can even lose the clock, I have a watch. Not because I'm a technophobe - because I'm not - but because I'd prefer a simple and reliable device that has decent battery life rather than some unholy hunk that has to constantly deal with GPS, WiFi, motion sensor technology, touchscreen (which is THE most pointless innovation EVER) cutting its battery time in half. (I currrently have a Samsung U800 which is very nice, gets me a low contract and does the shit I want from a phone).

    If I want to work, write and do internet stuff I'd use a computer. My laptop is very nice, but far too big and heavy to use on the move, so I have an Asus EEE that I got as a bargain (new for half the retail price - yes, from a legitimate store!). £150 and I can browse the internet, yes. But I can also take photos off my D50 on the move - directly useful to my job - for moving to a memory stick or e-mailing.

    But to say they are solely web-based is just... wrong. My EEE has, yes, e-mail, Firefox and Google Docs. However, it also has the full Open Office suite and GIMP image editor.

    Short of connecting to the company network, it has more functionality, both online and off, (and seemingly more RAM!) than my office computer.

    I'm definitely picking up an anti-netbook vibe here but for the life of me I can't understand your reasoning.

  71. Neil Kay
    Paris Hilton

    Oh dear, Ted's had too much caffeine again

    I was going to write a few paras on the smart arse support things I can do with my Aspire One and HTC TYTN II smartphone, but I'll just pause to ask when Ted's work experience at El Reg ends.

    /Paris - 'cos she'd knock up a more insightful and accurate article.

  72. Neoc
    Dead Vulture

    Author has no clue.

    "After all, the Eee PC isn't powerful enough to run MySQL and Ruby on Rails".

    Really? So the fact that I run a couple of Wikis (powered by MySQL) and a couple of Joomla sites (again, MySQL) on my EEE 900 for web development is just a figment of my imagination?

    I use my laptot to surf, email, control several other computers via virtual desktops, play games (OK, Doom and Elite - but I had a retro moment), install WINE and rung XP software, and watch H264-encoded movies while on the plane.

    Yeah, probably wouldn't want to Photoshop on it (small screen) or do inline video editing... but that's what I have a full-sized Laptop or a quad-core desktop for. I personally own a couple of desktop servers (Linux & MS), a desktop workstation, a SCC, a laptop and a smartphone. Why? Because each fills a niche - for example, the smartphone acts as my PDA and MP3 player. Since it's always with me, I am never late for an appointment. And since it syncs with my SCC, I can keep my appointment calendar up to date automatically.

    Oh, BTW, as soon as my wife (who is a manager and tech-neutral, she just "wants it to work") saw my EEE 900, I got sent right out to buy one for her. So here's your non-geek market right there.

    Check your facts before uttering FUD!

  73. Trevor Pott Gold badge

    <3 netbooks

    My EeePC > Your iPhone.

    That is all.

  74. Anonymous from Mars

    It's the perfect size.

    A phone is too small and a laptop is too big.

    End of story.

  75. Dave


    If your expectations are set correctly then you'll be fine with a netbook. I don't expect my AA1 to be able to edit video or do major number-crunching. A couple of weeks ago I was sat in a meeting at work, using it with VNC to get back to my desktop PC and that worked just fine. It's small, lightweight and easy to carry. I haven't bothered replacing the Acer desktop because it actually meets my needs for the most part. I can open a terminal window if I get command-line withdrawal, and I've enabled the right-click menu.

    OK, so I've customised it to my preferred email client and IM program, plus installed the Bluetooth package from the Acer website (which works just fine with an external USB dongle). However, many people with a Windows laptop would do the same, the main thing is that it was all easy to do.

    Had I expected it to do as well as my full-spec laptop then I can see that I'd be disappointed, but I use it where it's appropriate. Now, a small USB handset and a decent 3G/GSM widget with appropriate software and I'd be able to replace my smartphone...

  76. John White

    Re What is this strange word "f*ck"... and Christopher Martin

    "fsck" - linux command line for file system check and with right switches repair...think scandisk but better

  77. John White

    :@Evi Graham and Psion netBook

    There is a quite complete review/description of the original netBook at

    For range of software see

    - you can still get them (working) for c £100 on eBay. Read the article and you will see the true heritage of the modern "netBook".

    Yes they did and do work. No, there is no command line available, shareware programs and small authors abounded and games.

    I still use mine with a netBook pro battery - gives easily up to 12 hours continuous use. The Option GPRS PCMCIA card gave GPRS acces to the internet (I have one of those also).

    Loved and still love it. Eee PC is aclose second though, tell you if it is as good in 10 years time

    (long term test)

  78. Anonymous Coward


    Lot of comments here miss out the desktop from the equation. I wonder how many of the netbook owners also have a desktop.

    I for one went for desktop-smarphone combination. You get a good performance and a best screen estate on desktop and you get all the mobility you ever need on the smatphone.

    Smarphones these days can run skype, edit office documents and even run web server. No I didn't get it wrong, they can run servers.

    I do like gadgets and was seriously enthused by the prospect of a yet another nice toy with 9 inch screen. Would it do anything for me, that desktop and smartphone don't at the moment? No.

    And by the way smartphone != jesus phone. That expression was invented long before it's time.

  79. Viet

    In defense of asus' Xandros...

    Foreword : yes, I'm your typical run of the mill geek (albeit cleverly disguised as a corporate lawyer with tie, aftershave and all), so yes too, 5 minutes after I bought my 701, it was switched in advanced mode, and 20 minutes later, should I need more horsepower, "eeebuntu" was on bootable usb stick, ready to take over the kit. Long story short : I used the stick to play scummvm, and put games out the bas 4Gb. Everything else I needed was stock in xandros, and more often than not, I was switching back to basic mode, because, well, you know, that's the concept of this thing to be an appliance.

    Yesterday, I bought a 900A. My wife has inherited the 701, she's happy, thinks it's cute and don't give a sh*t wether it runs windows, linux or the marathon as long as she gets her mails and MSN. She marvels at the desk real estate she's going to get back once her (current) glass CRT will be removed. She spent the evening playing with skype, etc., and marveled that every single wire that cluttered the back of her desk will be gone for good because they're all *inside*, microphone, cam and all !

    Me, I certainly won't bother switching on the advanced mode. ctrl+alt+t is enough to make my day on those rare occasions I need to rampage through locked process with top.

    One note, though : I've been very disappointed by the Atom, hailed as the miracle solution to everything including hairloss by the crowd. It may run cooler or be less taxing on the battery (but the 900A comes with a 4cells 4400 mAh, versus 6cells 5200 mAh in the 701, evening the field), but I found the computer to be less stable (hitting a key during the boot is a sure way to lock the trackpad solid), and the overall feeling is more "jerky" ; there are unxepected latencies, and then the thing starts to run to catchup, then noticeably slows to cool, and sprints again a moment later... the 701's celeron was much more steady, giving a good sturdy feeling. The pace was slow, but the journey was sure. The Atom, on the other end, seems to have highs and lows like a sprinter on steroids. Only the 9" screen is a clear winner. Otherwise, both models have different pros and cons, but overall are much in the same league. I'm happy I didn't shell out more for a 901, I certainly would have been frustrated. The 900A cost me the same price as the 701 a year earlier.

  80. Anonymous Coward


    You are preaching to the geeks .. waste of time mate. These people already have a desktop, server, laptop, smartphone and now a weaktop (though I prefer laptot... great handle that). They have old Amiga's cluttering up their lofts and Sparc stations gathering dust in basements. They want more gadgets, even if there is no compelling reason to own it.

    The geeks are coming, the geeks are coming !!!

  81. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @AC and Sparc

    To paraphrase a previous poster "Foreword : yes, I'm your typical run of the mill geek (albeit cleverly disguised as a [corporate lawyer] NHS pharmacist with tie, aftershave and all)"

    How did this guy know I have an (Ultra)Sparc in my basement as my home file/media server? - I'm scared now!

    I'm posting AC not under my real nom de plume for security reasons

    PS In addition to WEP, how many others lock down their wireless to their personal MAC addresses?

    Answers in brown envelope; 3rd privet from the corner of the road....

  82. A J Stiles
    Thumb Up

    @ J Wild

    Any patents covering the Microwriter system will have expired long ago -- patents are only valid for 20 years.

  83. Brangdon

    Give it another year or two

    I wonder whether some posters are juandiced due to past bad experiences with smart phones. We are now getting them 800x480 screens and qwerty keyboards. The early models such as the SE X1 have their problems, but given some more time and a decent O/S they'll get better, and then they will squeeze laptops from the bottom.

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new here, move along...

    I had a Toshiba Libretto eleven years ago which ran Windows (in a fashion). Why is everyone so excited about weaktops, laptots, etc now?

    The small form-factor laptop didn't succeed back then, I can't see the latest incarnation succeeding now.

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Powerless against Jobsian divinity

    Good job he didn't make a netbook like the Macbook Air... oh wait.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can i run eclipse on a smartphone?

    Oh well, that's settled then.

  87. Julio
    Dead Vulture

    The meaning of "portable"

    I've owned a lot of laptops. They've ranged all over the size and performance world from desktop replacements with 17" displays to ultraportables. The best laptop I've ever owned, the one that traveled more, was used more, did more, than any other, was my Fujitsu LifeBook P2120.

    Compare that machine to a common netbook. The netbook comes out looking good even BEFORE you reach the $1200 price difference. The Fujitsu was a low performance highly PORTABLE machine. You could get a faster laptop with a bigger display for $1000 less. It was a leap of faith to buy that trust my instinct that a smaller machine was worth a lot more even if it was lower performance. What I found affirmed my choice: I could develop code, write, edit photos, and everything else I regularly did on a computer... everything I do today in fact... and I could do it anywhere.

    Netbooks give you all those advantages...and instead of a 50% premium they are 50% LESS expensive. For people like me who already have desktops and laptops and everything else but want a real portable they are a no-brainer. For people who can't afford a full laptop but want to get away from their desktop... again, brilliant. For a generation that grows up using them? The bloated 15" laptop will look like a joke, like those ancient cell phones that were the size of shoeboxes.

    As for smart phones... I've had them too... no comparison. You can do real, serious, and productive work on a netbook-type machine. They free you from the office by allowing you to get real work done in a park or cafe. Smart phones are just the opposite... they don't allow you to do real work but they do tie you ever more tightly to the office even when you are away.

  88. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down

    Laptots vs. Laptops

    I remember a time when laptops were heavy as hell, because hardware couldn't be miniaturized as much as it can be done these days. (Remember the "portable" Commodore?) Then they began to get smaller, down to the point that it was practical enough to actually use one of these on the move. The first one that I remember being practical enough was the Powerbook 180.

    Years later, after the Big Switch to PC's, I got a Fujitsu Lifebook 280Dx (1998) which not only fit perfectly in my backpack, but also had an interesting "modular" concept where I could exchange batteries, CD drive, zip cartridge drive and an "extra" HDD. It had 2 module bays (1 large, 1 small), and I could do nice combinations like setting it up with *TWO* batteries, so I could get 2x battery lifetime! Ah, the days.

    My next lap (ca. 2001) was a 15" monitor, "nice", I thought, "but it's heavier now, and it doesn't fit well on my backpack anymore." Since then, laptops have gotten bigger, heavier, and hotter; so much that in fact the term "laptop" has been kind of a running joke for some time now. Some laptops these days have w-i-d-e-s-c-r-e-e-n monitors that are about the size of my *desktop* monitor! I do *not* need big-ass monitors on a laptop, it only adds up to bulk. Basically, it looks like the laptops seem to be looking more and more like SUV's.

    Netbooks, on the other hand, are small and portable; more like the things I expected to see these days, not the SUV laptops we have now. I'd give them a try, if I had disposable income... which I don't have. (Thanks credit crunch!) I do have a smartphone (BB Curve), but even I know that it isn't practical to use as a full-fledged computer, even with its qwerty keyboard.

  89. Anonymous Coward

    Re : Nothing new here, move along...

    'I had a Toshiba Libretto eleven years ago which ran Windows (in a fashion). Why is everyone so excited about weaktops, laptots, etc now?

    The small form-factor laptop didn't succeed back then, I can't see the latest incarnation succeeding now.'

    Pleeeeze, and how much was the Libretto? A niche market at most given the price.

    All previous Netbook incarnations including the the best of the lot (for form, fit, and function) the Psion had the problem of being limited in market size due to price premium.

    With the new breed of Netbooks we are talking about a machine with 95% of the power of a full laptop in a small form with a price you can almost throw away...You can get Acer Aspire for 180 ukp now..a bargain compared with the previous cut down small factor machine such as the Libretto

    As for not suceeding might I suggest you open your eyes ? There are as many manafactures (and probabally units sold) now in the space of 12- 18 months than the entire market previously and as new improverd designs come on stream things will only get better. Think a simplified low wattage Duo CPU, full resolution screen in 10' form factor display, 60/120Mb solid state Flashdrive with speed as fast as conventional HD's etc... :-)

    I would ask the reverse question why would you want a current size Laptop ? Of course they will continue to flourish as people will always want a high spec portable full size desktop machine however they will eventually be squeezed by the Netbooks

    The machines that will also eventually be targeted by the current trend for 'small and cheap' will be the traditional PC desktop. Asus has started with the EEbox (Basically a modified netbook minus a display) that is small enough to be attached to the back of a monitor. This evolution will continue until you get a full power machine with maybe optical drive etc.. also built in...This will be fine for everybody except the gamer/power user etc...

  90. Christopher Martin

    Re: "fsck" ... John White

    Great for data integrity, indeed, but it still doesn't help my pronunciation problem :|

  91. Mike Street

    Interesting Article

    which squarely hits the wrong target. I think it's laptops which are superfluous. I don't have a netbook, but I will buy one soon. For 'proper' computing I use and will continue to use a desktop - proper screen, mouse & keyboard, no need to compromise computing or graphics power to extend battery life, no cooling or weight problems. When out and about I want to carry just as much computing power as I need, and no more. Sometimes that will be my smartphone, for email reading and making calls. For anything else, e.g. presentations and editing documents, a netbook will do just fine. Video editing I will do on my desktop (if I ever feel the need).

    Most laptops have such a short battery life they have to be always connected anyway - why not ditch the compromises and have a desktop instead? Or is it a size and status issue (my laptop's bigger and heavier than yours)?

  92. rob
    Thumb Down

    Linux and XP netbooks returned at the same rate

    Dear Authors.. PLEASE check your facts!

    The quote here

    <i>Users were returning Linux weaktops at a much higher rate than Windows ones. Oops.</i> is entirely incorrect

    Acer have stated, and it has been discussed openly, that the return rate of Linux and XP notebooks IS THE SAME!!!

    This was published on The Reg just one month ago

    A quote:

    "I believe the Linux and Windows have similar return rates," he said, adding that the Linux option was particularly popular in Europe.

    Thumbs down to the author! Swallowing it whole, and regurgitating incorrect facts!

  93. Jacek
    Dead Vulture

    The Troll Register

    Yet another article by paytard.. "The Register" becomes "The Troll Register". Another article based on bias and gossips. Zero research. Author is lying in our faces. And lost contact with reality!! I don't need four-core best just to write and read web. Most casual users do just that..

  94. Turbo Beholder

    Not the same.

    Smartphone is very dubious idea, and always was: as Eric Van Haesendonck already pointed out, if you really want to see internet, you need 800x600 at very least. Little overcrammed gizmos just sit between two seats.

    Phone calls? Little terminal + miniUSB hub with very basic standalone functions (flash load/save, etc) could do it after plugging headset and/or keypad in - and double as a player. But then they can go all the way and make uniform terminal model usable via wired GPRS, WiFi, Ethernet or whatever you want. Or plug in "power core" part and get 2-CPU laptop. That's the beauty and power of modular approach.

    My obligatory lip service to Black Helicopters Cult: purpose behind "all-online" movement may be "get rid of browser-level ad blocking". As simple as that.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like