back to article SMBs unimpressed by netbooks

Netbooks might be gaining popularity among consumers and college kids, but small and medium businesses (SMBs) are proving immune to their charms. More than two thirds of SMBs plan on buying new PCs and laptops in the next six months, but netbooks are a low priority, according to a Spiceworks survey. Just 13 per-cent of SMBs …


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  1. Nate Amsden

    docking stations?

    Do any netbooks have docking stations? That could be another reason, lotta folks use docking stations at the office.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Netbooks for Work

    I just bought a netbook. Yes, it's a second laptop as a carry all the time companion to the 17 inch behemoth that I use for most work. Yes, I run a SMB. The netbook is handy for notes and email and any document exchange is handled through a cloud infrastructure. I did purchase a 11.6 inch screen unit as it is barely larger than the 10.1 inch brethren but is a far better viewing experience. This is arguably not a netbook as it is not actually painful to run regular business applications on it.

    Good Bill due to it running XP.

  3. Leo Maxwell

    XP home

    The fact that they only come with XP home is a limiter,

    We would like to use them for our engineers, small, light, fast enough for the web, and most important for us-excellent for hardware manuals in PDF format, and possiblte to fit inside a toolcase.

    Linux ones would be fine, but the need to run Windows-only diagnostic software rules it out.

  4. Simon Ward

    Re: XP home

    "The fact that they only come with XP home is a limiter,"

    Not all of them - Linux is an option on the Dell Mini-series machines, and possibly others too.

    I recently got myself a Mini 10v with Ubuntu 8.04 preinstalled (swiftly replaced with Ubuntu 9.04, mind) and a 16Gb SSD. As an on-the-go machine, it's perfect although if I had to use it day in, day out for work the small screen would drive me nuts.

  5. ElReg!comments!Pierre
    Gates Horns

    I do use one for work stuff

    But I might be an exception...

    I do have an EEEPC 900, which has plenty of screen space as compared to the 901 (for the same screen size... go figure) and is very nice for basic things such as office work (text, spreadsheets, presentations), email, skype and whatnot, but also moderate image processing duties.This suits my needs quite well while being much less cumbersome than my 15" laptop.

    On the other hand, the Windows version feels really cramped and makes any kind of work a painful experience, you'd have to get a 11" screen to get an acceptable "experience" for anything else than e-mail. And at this size, you will probably go for a real laptop instead, while getting a smartphone for email.

    As far as I can see, when running Windows the small netbooks offer barely more functionality than smartphones -except for the storage space, but that's not what SMBs get a netbook for- while being considerably larger and having a pityful battery life. MS kinda managed to kill the netbook market. For now. It will be interesting to see what happens with the latest Sony.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too slow, no major price advantage

    Most SMBs will realise that the small price premium for a notebook which can actually run Windows applications at speed and has a decent size (15.4") screen is very small.

    I think the demand for Netbooks has peaked. The average user experience is pretty poor.

  7. SynnerCal

    Why SMB's don't do netbooks

    "Spiceworks did not say why so few SMBs plan on buying netbooks. One challenge could be the fact that the form factor is smaller than most business laptops"

    I think that no-one would suggest that a 10.1" netbook would be a good replacement for a 15.4" laptop. In which case the netbooks would be surely being considered in place of the smaller (12-14") ones . Hence, I'd politely suggest that a bigger objection to netbooks would be their poor value for money v's normal laptops.

    Take the example of Acer - a quick internet search shows that a 531-06k netbook can be had for about £332. However, for an extra £11 (from the same supplier) you could have a Travelmate 5330 CDC laptop, that has double the memory, an optical drive and a dual core processor - oh and a larger screen! Other vendors - e.g. Dell - have their netbooks more competitvely priced, but there's still only a relatively small difference between comparable netbooks and laptops - which makes the former look poor value for money.

    Re: XP Home (Leo Maxwell) "The fact that they only come with XP home is a limiter,". I can't see anything you mention that can't be done with XP Home. However, I'm sure I remember something about being able to update from Home to Pro (although didn't Microsoft say that we should all be using Vista by now <grin>). Failing that, trade back your Home license to Microsoft and put on your own Pro license/install. What about Windows7 - any use?

    You're exactly correct in what you say though - they're a potential godsend for the field engineers. Especially if the company is sensible enough to get the ones with the high-capacity batteries and the ExpressCard slots. The latter allows the addition of serial ports etc - it's amazing how much kit still uses the old RS-232 port. Whap on a 3G USB stick and you can VPN home too - or Google for that essential patch or reference.

    Penguin icon because my Acer One runs Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix.

  8. Richard 12 Silver badge

    There are two key failures

    Screen Resolution:

    1024x600 simply isn't big enough for the majority of business applications, particularly as Office 2007 decided to eat the top 120-odd pixels. Many smartphones have 480 pixels high screens, thus the only advantage remaining is the keyboard.

    I'm led to believe that Microsoft imposed that artificial limit on WinXP machine resolution, and they definitely introduced the 'big pictures' menu system, which means that MS basically killed the product range.

    Much as I'd love to suggest running Linux on them, for business that only works if your core apps are already on Linux or browser-based.


    No business is going to spend as much on a 'micro' laptop as they would on a 'normal' one. It's an adjunct to, not a replacement for.

  9. frank ly

    Docking Stations for Netbooks.....

    ....are not necessary. At home, my EEE-901 (XP) sits with its lid closed, under a 17" LCD monitor and pumps out a 1280x1024 signal through the VGA connector. It autodetects the external monitor (which it refers to as CRT) and if you press the Fn-F5 key you can cycle through the different twin-screen options. The only option I use is 'CRT only' so I can operate with the netbook lid closed.

    A little wireless dongle plugs into the right hand USB connector and talks to the wireless keyboard and optical mouse (£20 from PC World) which are a much better experience than the netbook keyboard and mouse. An external DVD writer connects to the left hand USB connector. With its Wi-Fi active, it is then on my home network and has access to my NAS box and the internet.

    Alternatively, it sits in the living room under my LCD-TV which has a VGA input and it plays full screen videos (using VLC media player) from my NAS box onto my TV. (Reading folder contents and file lists on a TV screen from the other side of the living room is not something you want to do much of though).

    How easy is that?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    but that would mean they would have a lower budget requirment.....

    why would they spend £300 on a netbook when thay can buy a overkill laptop for £2000 on expenses as a tax sink...

    they both can do the same thing, they both run at the same slow speed (once bulked out with rubbish corporate junk software) and they both will be abused, lost, sat on, stolen...

    i would have thought all SMB's would be goin gout of thier way to upgrade to netbooks or roll back to desktops to keep spiraling costs under control.

  11. viet 1

    It's all in the price margin !

    I don't buy the small screen explanation. The main factor lies in the retailer. In a SMB, most I know of at least, you buy software according to the description of your job you give to your IT solutions provider (I don't know the exact word in english). Along software, he sells you the needed hardware, taking a margin on the deal in the process (here, around 20%). Of course, it's only human he favours higher priced laptops ! This is nicely wrapped in marketing speech, and it only leads to forming the belief no actual work can be done on a sub 500 € computer in the kinds of my former boss.

    My former boss was happily fighting with an expensive subnotebook that shouted "big bucks" all over, but didn't put a second glance on my personal eeepc the second after I told him it cost only 300 €. As a matter of fact, I was doing pretty much exactly the same kind of things he did on his laptop. Netbook just scream work, not attitude.

  12. Wortel

    Opinions vary

    Rightly so, because A's needs are not necessarily B's needs.

    I've been in discussions about netbooks with various people in IT. General consensus is that netbooks do not deliver value for money and proper usability, because of the lack of enough screen real-estate, bad keyboards, and XP Home are just not going to work out for the desired applications, unless you're just a simple home user.

    * Screens are for most models limited to a 600 pixel height, a showstopper for educational and financial applications. Expecting or convincing software companies to downscale their apps is not realistic.

    * Keyboards vary - Kids can handle some small layouts, many will complain, adults will refuse, because they are used to regular notebook or desktop keyboards.

    * XP Home under Microsoft's "low cost small notebook PC" license. XP Home can't join domains, and the license limits application of the entire setup.

    * Removing XP Home in favour of XP Pro, Vista or 7: prepare to nearly double or triple your purchase price per unit, depending on choice of version. Don't forget eligibility in license.

    * BIOS is consumer market oriented, lacking business type features such as on-boot asset tag messages and full hardware configuration.

    * Lifetime of the product leaves to be desired. For IT projects it is desirable to purchase in bulk, from a single production date so the hardware doesn't vary, because varying hardware increases workload (building, maintaining and retaining software images, as an example). Not going to happen with netbooks, because it's the 'new' thing, and new models are replacing 'old' models too quickly right now.

    That said, i'm quite happy with my Samsung NC10, but I don't run business applications on it either as it simply doesn't fit.

  13. Martin 6 Silver badge

    @Why SMB's don't do netbooks

    XP-home can't join a domain which breaks most office setups.

    Except for that they are perfect for office use.

    Government workers will find them much easier to leave on a train.

    And managers only use laptops to run Outlook and take home for their kids to play with and download lots of fun viruses and trojans before bringing them back into the office network on monday.

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