back to article Netbooks: notebook evolved - or stunted throwback?

Market watcher ChangeWave this week revealed that netbook popularity has plunged - but not necessarily in the wake of the iPad's introduction. ChangeWave regularly polls punters to see what gadgets they plan to purchase in the coming months. When it comes to netbooks, CW said, only 14 per cent of those North American consumers …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    Just a small laptop.

    That's all they are. Don't understand the fuss, and I have one (Acer Aspire One) that I quite like.

    Though I would say that they aren't new - My old Toshiba Satellite T2130CT could be classed as a netbook based on screen size:


    Albeit 640x480

    1. Antidisestablishmentarianist

      Just a small laptop?

      Just a *slow* laptop surely. I bought one hoping it was just a small laptop for occasional use. Instead I encountered a turgid mess. I had low expectations too. Pointless. I quickly got rid of it.

    2. Anton Ivanov


      I have a dead Sony Vaio Picturebook C1F in my spare parts bin. It is a 2001 machine with 1024x480 screen and dimensions that are even smaller than those of a modern netbook.

      While vendors wanted to "think differently" the consumers wanted small notebooks at non-Vaio/non-Tosh pricing and that is what they used the netbooks for. From there on the deliberate crippling of the platform by marketing reqs like "Though shall not have resolution more than 1024x600" killed the market before it could take off.

      It is yet another bit of history repeating. Take a bazooka, aim at foot in the name of "non-cannibalisation", shoot. Cannibalising your products is NORMAL. If you do not do that and there is an obvious opportunity and the market is non-regulated someone else bloody well will. The free market will make sure to that. By deliberately chosing not to cannibalise you are giving that competitor an opportunity it may never get otherwise. To make matters worse if you are a monopolist you are also gving that someone the opportunity of a lifetime to break your monopoly. Non-cannibalisation in a non-regulated market is a terminally dumb idea (TM).

      The crippling of netbooks gave the tablets finally their chance to shine under the sun, the marketing shenanigans with i810, i840 and the deliberate crippling of i815e and disallowing OEMs to ship systems with full use of its capabilities gave a chance to Athlon to eat a big chunk of consumer space. Let's be real - Athlon was not that much better than P3 and P4 in those days. However, it was not deliberately crippled to specific memory types and limited configurations on purely marketing grounds. And so on... There are plenty of examples to this in just Intel's recent history.

    3. JonHendry

      and cheap

      I think it got to the point that when people hear "netbook" they think "really cheap" as well as small.

    4. Stanislaw

      "Just a small laptop"

      This is precisely the problem - they're not supposed to be just a small laptop, but that's what they ended up as.

      I bought one two years ago precisely because it was small, booted in a few seconds, and had no hard disc but a nice sturdy SSD. It has very limited use as a mobile net access machine (nope, I don't want/have no particular need for a smartphone) but that's fine because that's what it's supremely good at.

      I will not buy another netbook because the format has been ruined. Practically all of them have HD's & Windows now. Why? Because people think they're "just small laptops". Frankly if you want a small laptop, that's what you should buy - not a netbook which will almost certainly disappoint if you want to use it for general computing.

  2. Jon Press

    What's in a name...

    If I need a bag to carry something around in, I'd rather it had a keyboard. However, I don't want a 1024x600 atom-underpowered Windows machine with a prehistoric graphics adapter.

    It's not a netbook vs tablet issue per se - the netbook form factor is OK, it's the contents that suck.

  3. Nigel 11
    Thumb Up

    Just a cheap notebook

    Not a stunted throwback nor revolutionary - just a boring cheap notebook for use on-the-move.

    Many of our staff have a netbook for giving presentations and network browsing away from home. They're adequate. They're cheap enough to throw in a case or bag without worrying too much about breaking it or losing it, and they are less heavy than a standard notebook.

    The remarkably simple formula for success: just about fast enough, low cost, light weight and decent battery life.

    Sales dropping? I'm not surprised, everyone who wants one has got one. Also they aren't really adequate for Windows 7 but you can't get XP unless you retro-install it on a corporate license. Intel will probably ship an Atom fast enough for "7" soon and then the market might pick up a bit.

    1. Dave Bell

      Why Windows?

      My netbook is an Eee, running Linux, and it works pretty well. Yes, some bits could be better, but it's a handy machine. Most of the time, running Linux makes no difference to what I am doing.

      I'm not sure about using a tablet: it maybe wouldn't work well for what I do. What tablets have done is to break away from Windows. Did Windows 7 benefit from the Great Netbook Experiment? I am not at all certain that Netbooks have gained anything from Windows.

  4. tony72

    A bit of both

    Netbooks haven't really improved much over the last two years - we've only just got a dual core Atom starting to appear, and it doesn't seem to make much of a difference. My old Acer Aspire One still performs on a par with netbooks we're buying today. The determination of Intel etc to not encroach on the laptop market I guess is why we don't see a 720p or WXGA netbook with a slightly more capable dual core processor.

    So yes, they are stunted. But then the iPad is stunted in a comparable sense; Apple have gone to a lot of effort to make sure that the iPad is something you use alongside a PC, rather than instead of a PC, by crippling it quite extensively to make sure you just can't use it like a PC, should you want to.

    So I guess the future of the netbook depends on whether they actually are allowed to evolve a bit - how long can they actually expect to keep flogging 1024x600 10" machines no more powerful than 2 years ago, there is no incentive for existing owners to upgrade at the moment, so it's hardly surprising sales are slumping. I wouldn't touch an iPad, although I do have a WXGA Win7 tablet on order, but that's only because the netbook I want doesn't actually exist. What can you do?

  5. Adair Silver badge


    As far as I am concerned the 'netbook concept' was more or less strangled at birth by MS rapidly implementing it's 'eee' policy. Instead of cheap, light, long lived the platform evolved overnight into expensive, heavy (in software terms), and miserable battery life. Since then the type has consolidated into 'small laptop' and nothing like what many of the early (and wannabe early) adopters were hoping for.

    Ah, well, there's always next time.

  6. Joefish

    "Everyone who wants one has got one".

    That may well be it. I think there are two problems. Firstly, you had to have a lot of technical knowledge to get the most out of the original ones - how to best use the small SSD, how to put a decent amount of RAM inside, how to optimise XP, or the desire to use Linux at all. The original concept of a small, PC-compatible you could lug around but was cheap enough that you wouldn't cry too much if you broke it, didn't come with the same usability as a pre-installed home machine or laptop.

    Then in trying to address the usability with larger screens, pre-installed Windows, more memory and HDDs, the sellers basically removed every single thing that made the original attractive.

    Maybe the original market just wasn't big enough - but the one they moved into didn't exist at all...

  7. RollinPowell

    an ipad is not a computer

    I am an avid netbook user and use it everyday while doing the sysadmin thing. It's light, runs XP well, and can run 6.5 hours without a charge. AND it has USB ports. AND it runs Flash. The ipad is not a computer and most of the users who have got them say, "I'm going to use it for movies and work!" and I've never seen a single one of those dummies use it for anything even mildly productive - EVEN in an all Mac office. Most of them don't even use them anymore, let alone carry them around.

    Which brings me to my point: A netbook is a tiny computer (albeit with slow components and not enough vertical resolution) and an iPad is an expensive toy for buying things from the Apple store. People seem to be getting the two confused. Other tablets maybe able to create something that IS a usable computer, but the iPad is nothing more than a very large iPod Touch and should be treated as such - not as competition to real computers.

  8. spegru

    recipe for netbook happiness

    1. buy the cheapest one you can with decent battery

    2. if you can avoid windows altogther then great but in not one with xp will do

    3. install Linux Mint

    Enjoy a full fat pc experience with wifi, dongles and the like supported from day one, plus ability to connect to a bigger screen and keyboard if you want

    Important benefits to remember include: No crapware, No need for resource sapping antivirus, compatibility with windows networking, flash, multimedia etc etc and pre installed office free of charge (but make a donation if you want)

    Happy days

    mine is a Packard Bell (made by acer). cost 239 a couple for weeks ago

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I never bought into the idea of a netbook as a separate class of device

    rather they always struck me as a throwback to the days when an 9" panel was acres of space for your 640x480 action and you were never going to fill that 50MB hard drive, but with the benefits of wireless networking and t'Internet

  10. John White

    re netBook and netbooks

    increasing screen size beyond 10ins (best is 9) and spinning HDDs ruin the format - a small, handy device that does just enough of the desktop/heavy duty laptop to be useful and with good battery life. Bumping screen size up ruined all the good points.

    I'll keep repeating - a modern version of the Psion netBook is what many of us who HAVE to input data need.

    Perhaps the Toshiba AC-100 with Debian? or Compaq Airlife 100 (has a touchscreen) with better processor? I'd have those. Until then, my HP 2140 +SSD +KDE Ubuntu is the closest I've got/can afford.

    I don't know who to blame for the size creep; MS pushing at manufacturers or manufacturers looking at 15in laptop sales. Either way, a >10in laptop with spinning HDD does NOT meet the qualities/versatility of my Psion netBook

  11. batfastad
    Jobs Horns

    They are great

    Asus 1005HA-H: genuine 9 hour battery life, great keyboard, just over 1Kg in mass, £220.

    Perfectly fast enough for Firefox browsing, SSH, jEdit, Irfanview, Foobar, Word, watching H264 video in MPC.

    Only downside to mine is the screen res... 1024 x 600 (netbook standard it seems) rather than 1024 x 768. Asus released one earlier in the year with improved res.

    Still no contest for me though... would definitely look to replace my netbook with another if this ever gives up the ghost.

    1. batfastad
      Jobs Horns


      People who complain about the price of netbooks these days... how much does a top of the range iTurd MP3 player go for these days?

      About the same, a little bit less? Thought so.

      You could pop down to PC World (urrg) and get a massive brick of a Packard Bell (or something equally as chud) for only 20% more dosh than a netbook, but my bet is that it will be 3Kg in mass with a battery life of 3hrs max, probably down to 30 mins after a year of ownership.

      Ok XP is old, but it works, and runs rapidly even on a netbook.

      I don't want any of the Fisher Price fancy graphics, bouncing icons, rounded buttons you get modern OSs anyway.

      Netbooks... what is there not to like!

  12. Anonymous Coward

    For what they offer...

    There are a lot of severely overpriced Netbooks floating around IMO. Just for sh*ts and grins I just went to NewEgg and 65% of their Netbooks are over $300. Almost 26% are over $400. You can pretty readily find sub $500 and $400 laptops with real processors in them.

    I really think the netbook sales problems of late has more to do with price points and increasing competition from cheaper laptops than it has to do with Tablets. After all this time, Netbooks have been relatively stagnant in terms of performance/features while the average cost has increased. With the $300+ netbooks you have to really want the form factor to justify the purchase vs. a laptop IMO. That equation isn't going to change as long as netbooks have Atom processors in it as I just don't see Intel having any sort of incentive in threatening their other processors.

    As far as the future of netbooks go it might not be netbooks as we know them, because Atom processors and Windows definitely sets a floor on price and a ceiling on performance. It might be that smartbooks (ARM processors with a Linux variant of some sort on top) will kill the netbook as we know it, assuming of course that they can provide the right cost for performance... but I just don't see either being replaced with tablets (probably because I'm one of those can't-live-without-my-buttons type of guys).

  13. Llanfair

    When they were popular

    The price of netbooks was cheap back then. They were under 200 quid. Now they are so much more expensive and are trying to be as close to notebooks as possible. They used to run Linux, now that they are running Windows, they needed to be much more powerful and they have been given much bigger screens. The price has shot up.

    This is why Netbooks are going down in popularity.

    1. Code Monkey


      That's the sound of the nail being hit on the head. I've got a Acer Aspire One and it gets twice the use of my "grown up" laptop. It has a decent keybord and the screen size is fine, even for lightweight photo editing. It's not the fastest but I really object to lugging those extra kg around these days.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    little laptops

    I want a netbook. Kinda. What I want is a notebook computer that weighs 1 kilogram or less. And it should have a big screen. And real performance. And the battery should last me all day.

    With a netbook, I'm getting some of that. It's light enough, and the battery life is reasonable. But it's not what I want. It's never been what I want. Laptop users have always wanted thin, light, fast, and big. They got big first, then fast. Now they have a choice between thin and light on one hand and big and fast on the other. But that's not what they want.

    When we can have all four, then you'll see the floodgates open.

    1. Code Monkey

      All four

      For £1500 (and looking like a more money than sense tosser) you can. Personally I'd rather spend £1500 on crisps and beer.

  15. Jack Prichard

    I would say...

    ... the interesting question is "Will tablets go the same way netbooks did?"

    Remember the first eeePC (with friend)? It was small, light, did only basic things and ... was cheap.

    It was not trying to be a 'proper' computer, it was the other thing you had.

    Fast forward to now and we have what I would say is best described as a wide range of notebooks. If it has a screen and a keyboard and is not a desk-top then it is in the range, the CPU, memory etc are variable.

    The market has pushed these things to be bigger and faster and ... more like real computers which they weren't originally. Particularly in terms of price because margin is a percentage and the higher the price the more profit.

    Now, the question is ... will tablets get bigger and more powerful and ... more expensive.

    Possibly but this started with Apple and they have kept the iPod and an iPod (yeah, apart from the Touch) so who knows.

    Interesting though.


    1. JonHendry

      more expensive

      "Now, the question is ... will tablets get bigger and more powerful and ... more expensive"

      I suspect general-purpose devices will. Companies will always want to keep up with the latest tech, so they'll keep putting out new models with new stuff, which will keep the price from falling too much, and might even raise the prices.

      I'd hope a single-purpose device like the kindle will largely avoid that. Not as much pressure to improve the specs. Don't need much CPU. Don't really need any more storage than 4GB. Monochrome e-ink screens need whiter backgrounds, and somewhat faster or finer-grained refreshes, maybe an increase to 32 or 64 grays, but higher resolution isn't really necessary for black and white text, so in a few years it'll hit the point where there's no real point improving it, and it can get really cheap.

      Color e-ink would provide a reason for another few years of upgrades as the tech improves, and the CPUs and storage would likely need to improve to accommodate color media, but I doubt the screens will ever be usable for video or action games, so pressure to upgrade will eventually taper off, and again, the devices can get cheap.

  16. The Brave Sir Robin

    You'd have to pry...

    my netbook (Asus EEE PC901) out of my cold dead fingers. It's the most useful little gadget I've ever had.

    Beer to toast the netbook with.

  17. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    I love my notebook

    And I wouldn't know what to do with a tablet (web browsing is NOT my main occupation).

    But I went for a 9" EEE, not a 11.6" monster. With a SSD; I wouldn't have bought a HDD one.

    As I said when the notebooks switched from the original SSD-and-Linux small things to lumpy sluggish Windows machines: MS killed the notebook.

  18. Watashi

    Horses for courses

    Portable computing sub-divisions

    1) Portable PC - ie traditional laptop / notebook

    2) Ultra-portable PC - netbook

    3) Mobile media and internet device - tablet

    4) Ultra-portable media and internet device – smartphones, iPods and mini-tablets

    The usable portable PC has been around for two decades, but the other three have all come to maturity very close together. Has the tablet eaten into the netbook market? Well, I'd say that the netbook actually ate into the tablet market by providing much of the functionality of the tablet (very portable, price-cutting low spec, very high battery life) at a time when tablet technology was poorly marketed, insufficiently touch-usable and not cheap enough to satisfy the needs of those who wanted one. Remember, Apple didn’t invent the touch interface tablet – they merely refined it, repackaged it and aimed it at a different bunch of consumers. What we're seeing is tablet computers reclaiming lost ground.

  19. arex

    Too damn small...

    I've never had an issue with the performance of my netbook, but I have huge hands and the keyboard is simply too damn small. If they were to make a somewhat larger netbook with a larger display and keyboard, I'd be all over it.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Market saturation surely?

    The netbook was only ever a niche product and most of those who want one have one. I started with an 8GB SSD Acer 1 but now have an Ubuntu / 7 dual boot Samsung N140 and have no intention of upgrading or buying a tablet unless the N140 packs up. Actually, scrap the tablet part, none of the ones on sale or looming will do what I want while the N140 is a perfect small, cheap (got it for £229) computer - runs Thunderbird, Skype, Chrome, Pidgin, Gimp etc just like my proper PC and can carry 250GB of data.

  21. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Asking people what they would/might buy isn't as accurate as seeing what they do buy.

    They work fine with 7-starter, just as well as XP.

    As a $250 way of web browsing and sending emails it's fine - I'm in no hurry to pay 3x as much for an iPad so I can do the same thing with prettier icons.

  22. Kev99

    Netbooks are an anachronism

    Apparently I'm one of the few who are old enough to remember the first laptop computers. And old enough to remember the pundits dancing on the tables when their screens went fro 9" to 10" to 12" and the CPUs broke 120 Mhz etc. Netbooks are the same thing once again. Already their making them with bigger screens. What goes around...

  23. Blitterbug

    Tweaked, they're fine!

    The base netbook spec is absolutely fine. What isn't fine, on the many I have installed for my clients, is the pre-loaded crap that Acer, Dell & even Samsung chuck on top of Windows. This stuff KILLS netbooks. Heck, I spend an average of 90 mins tweaking brand-new fast laptops before I consider them usable, including killing Norton, dumping the OEM automatic healthcheck crap services and shutting off rubbish services such as Tablet PC, Server, etc.

    I promise you; spend the same time on an XP or Win7 netbook as you would commissioning a fast laptop & you will be very pleasantly surprised; mine goes with me everywhere and lasts a working day on a single charge, allows me to fault-test routers & WiFi setups, I can plug it into an external monitor for hi-res work if I want, and being Acer it has a beautiful 'proper' keyboard, not a bunch of scrabble tiles!

    1. neil hanvey

      i agree

      i agree, an hour of tweaking and now i use my netbook more than my desktop mac.

  24. Mr Floppy

    lazy useless manufacturers

    The problem with these netbooks was that they were so full of promise. The original 701 that came with xandros was great for it's time but it didn't evolve the software. Yes the screen was small and it had an under powered cpu and storage was tiny but those limitations would have been great if ASUS spent some money on developing the operating system. Instead they started kitting the things out with slightly larger screen, a spinning hard drive, etc.

    They could have tailored it to work better with what the kit they had but like all netbook manufacturers, they know nothing about software and operating systems. No doubt there was some pressure from M$ to use their OS but the OS and the apps don't suit the tiny screens and limited power of these machine. M$ could have made some money here if they cared and tailored an XP version to suit but no, they are just a lazy and contemptuous to the user base.

    Now I'd say smart phones will probably finish off the netbook. My N900 is now what my nokia E66 and eeepc 701 were together.

  25. Olivreghw
    Thumb Up

    Give me more netbooks !

    I have a eee 1008ha. Light. Nice screen. Good keyboard. Fast enough. Nice (even cute) design.

    Just what I need for :

    - getting ride of windows and replacing it by Ubuntu (or Fedora currently).

    - browsing, OOofficing, pythoning, gimping, gaming,movie-ing, music-ing

    - traveling

    One day I'll maybe have a tablet, but not an Apple one, I don't see the point in paying for an overpriced piece of hardware then reading news about Apple boasting about all the money they have and don't know what to do with it, about their high stock market price and so on... as an Apple customer I would feel very very angry... (or take their last overpriced and underperforming MacNetBook Air). Anyway I don't see the point either in a gadget with 16 GB of capacity (even 64 GB is a joke, give me half an hour and I'll fill it).

    So regarding tablets I'll wait a bit, to see how it evolves, if it really adds any value.

    Regarding netbooks since one year they don't evolve so much so I'm waiting for the post-atom generation : a dual core or more, some better 2D performance, 1366*768 in 10 inch (or 11 inch at most), at most 1.1 kg, 250 GB SSD at least, good price.

  26. David Hicks

    They screwed up.

    Cheap, solid state storage, no Windows, 10 or less inches. Good netbook formula.

    When you start trying to put windows and full, heavyweight windows apps on them, and then slow them down and make them more fragile with a hard drive, then make them almost as big and almost as expensive as a regular laptop/notebook, then you've failed.

  27. Big Dave

    If netbooks are gimped laptops, what are tablets?

    Tablets sure aren't netbook killers. If you're moaning about netbooks underperforming, why buy one that doesn't even have a keyboard?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Large smartphones without the ability to make phone calls?

      iPad = iPod Touch Macro


  28. Piloti

    I have a .......

    ... netbook running Mandriva. I shoved an extra gig of ram in it and if flies.

    Really. Yes, as said before, it is a cheap laptop. No optical, but anything my "big windows" machines does, my little linux machines does really quite nicely. I have LibreOffice installed, VLC, Firefox, Evolution......

    Seems like the perfect combination.

    Not sure why people still pay for massive bloatware from MS to do exactly the same jobs that Linux will do on a low power, cheap notebook / netbook.

    I'm not going to buy another, because I expect this to one to last me another few years.... no MS Upgrade tie in you see....!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I have a Dell Mini 10v ...

    Runs both OS X or Linux via dual boot. OS X is very nippy (even more so than the Linux install) and either allow me to do real work away from home. The 160 Gb disk is great as well. Love it.

    AC for obvious reasons.

  30. PaulVD
    Thumb Up

    Netbook works for me

    On a train, bus and plane, the netbook is small enough that it fits on my lap and doesn't bump into the seat in front. I can't use a laptop that way. Commuting with my Win7 netbook, I write documents in Word, run spreadsheets in Excel, run statistics in Mathematica and R, and generally get to be as happy as Larry. (Leisure Suit, not Ellison.) When I get home, the small screen and keyboard gets annoying, so I break out the laptop for reading El Reg. If I need serious number crunching, there are serious desktops in the office. But the netbook works for me in a lot of tasks that I would thought beyond it. (Mind you, it does not seem that many years since an N140 with 1GB DDR2 and 120GB disk would have been the sort of power you would see in a top-end desktop, so maybe I should not be surprised.)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love my 11.6 netbook

    Running Linux (despite all Intel efforts), light enough to carry to meetings or use in plane trips, with 7hours battery life, 720p/1080p mp4 capability, decent screen (1366x768), decently sized keyboard, upgradeable hard drive, I'll only give up my netbook when I can get something similar, but faster and with more memory, and preferably without Intel inside.

    Maybe I'll buy an android touchpad and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse in the meantime. I'd even buy a Toshiba AC100 since it seems it can run Linux well and doesn't pay the ms tax, if it wasn't for the lower screen resolution.

  32. Alex Walsh

    A few points

    1) "Netbook" was a phrase coined when prices began to spiral, originally we were all calling them SCC's (Small, cheap, computers).

    2) With the exception of a few Nvidia Ion machines, they're all bloody the same, whats the point of upgrading? They're not getting any more powerful or higher res in the screen department.

  33. Uwe Dippel

    Absolutely: It MUST be a netbook! For me ...

    Totally correct, in the beginning, it was 'sexy', 7 inch, SSD, Linux. All what is needed for on-the-road activities. The manufacturers could not produce enough, even. But then, The Behemoth from Redmond came in, once again, when seeing their market eroding, and told the manufacturers as well as users, what actually *should* happen according to Steve B.: It HAD to be Microsoft. Now, netbooks don't support the concept of fat installs and RAM use; so the manufacturers had to gradually, actually fast because of being pushed by Microsoft, move to a 'tiny notebook' (tiny in all meanings) instead.

    ElReg!comments!Pierre got it totally right. Microsoft will shoot down whatever seems to threaten their evil ways. From OS2 to netbooks. And, alas, the general public falls for all the nonsense emanating from the mouth of Redmond.

    No, my notebook(s) are not what I use for my daily work. Though I do use them daily, for hours. Have one in my bag, wherever I go, reading mails, writing, surfing, Sudoku, etc. And the other one goes with me through all my lectures, with a graphics tablet. Because the crap PCs that are provided in the lecturer halls too often simply don't work, at least not properly. And then the cloud helps me, syncing all my actual documents on any client that I use.

    Yep, here's one more whom you'll have to pry the netbook from my cold dead fingers. Though you might be disappointed: No, it doesn't run Windows.

  34. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    3 Ingredients for a useful netbook

    1) Sunlight readable display: Please electricute the berks who 1) made the backlight dim to unreadable when mains power is removed. 2) Reviewed the battery life as >0 when the display was unreadable outdoors on a cloudy day.

    2) Cheap: If I use a £500 computer outdoors, someone will try to nick it. Remember they used to be called Small Cheap Computers for a reason.

    3) Computer: Install Linux and you get a fully functional computer. Install Windows and you do not have the power to run anti-virus software - if you can find any that runs on ARM or MIPS.

  35. Olivreghw
    Thumb Up

    Linux on netbooks ?

    Why is there so few netbooks delivered with Linux instead of windows ? (or even without os)

    I remember the first eee pcs had a kind of crappy linux, so I guess that's part of the answer, customers were probably unhappy with it.

    but since ubuntu 9.xx it works perfectly on netbooks. It's cost effective, fast, light, user-friendly, virus-crapware-spyware-antiviruscrap-free. All the common application are ready to use.

    Why Asus, acer,dell and so on are still selling windows ??

    All the manufacturers are ready to ditch windows for Android in the tablet-gadget but regarding x86 they stick to windows.

    either cannonical has a very bad commercial strategy or MS is putting mafia-like pressure on manufacturers... let me guess...

  36. Graham Bartlett

    Everyone's missed the culprit for netbooks sucking


    Not because Windows sucks, nor because of the trial versions of MS Office that get pre-installed.

    No, the problem is that Microsoft *mandated* the bloody stupid limits on screen resolution and RAM. There's no good reason for a 10" screen to be stuck in a 1990s-stylee 1024x600 resolution - except that MS would only sell you an OS at a reasonable price if you had that size of screen. Similarly, if you could stick more RAM in them then they'd generally perform a whole lot better - but again, MS would only sell you an OS at a reasonable price if the RAM fitted was unreasonably small.

    Yeah, sure, there's Linux. Right. To be fair, Linux isn't as woefully unprepared for the big-time as a 5-year-old's first squeaky attempts on violin - it's probably reached about Grade 3 now, so it's no longer actively painful to be in the same room as it. But it's still a long way from being where I'd put it in front of my parents or my wife and expect them to be able to just use it.

    1. Blitterbug

      Actually only the display is limited

      @ Graham B:- You can easily swap out the 1GB DIMM for 2GB. MS only mandated the vertical res @ 600 to keep the license (Windows tax, if you prefer) much lower.

      It seems to me that many peeps here can't have tried a real, actual Win netbook. Fair play to those that have and still find it slow, but the Atom architecture is fast, it's not knobbled. Even at 1.6GHz my Aspire One absolutely *slays* my older Vista Home Basic laptop (Celeron @ 2GHz) and *all* my older Pentium M laptops that run @ faster clocks.

      Truthfully, if you hate Win and/or MS, you will be commenting negatively here about Netbooks to some degree or other, even if it's just to have a quick pop @ MS. But that aside, people seem to be forgetting that the Atom uses much of the core2 architecture and if the screen res is allowed to grow a little (already has in some models), and if netbook makers keep their nerve and keep making them, they *are* the perfect small-footprint workhorse they were supposed to be.

      Guys, kick out all the crap that is killing your Win netbooks and they will fly! Using virtual DVD software I have even mounted copies of my Civ IV and Rome Total War games, and they actually play quite nicely. Has no-one realised the integrated graphics on these things is actually pretty damned good??

    2. GrahamT

      Not 100% MS fault

      All the early SCCs had a limited Linux on them (Linpus, etc.). Many of these were returned by users as they weren't Windows (didn't they try-before-buy?) and quite honestly the UI sucked for anyone other than a beginner.

      The manufacturers then had to produce a Windows version to stay in the market. Due to the SSD/memory size, they had to beg MS to let them use the obsolescent XP rather than MS's then current Vista. This put MS in the driving seat - thus they can dictate the hardware spec. Of course to run Windows, a HDD is almost obligatory.

      My wife's Acer Aspire One with SSD still runs Linux, but Ubuntu Netbook edition (10.04) which she has no issues with. She is completely computer illiterate otherwise.

      As someone else said, if there had been the current Ubuntu around at the time, then perhaps there wouldn't have been the mass returns of Linux netbooks, and less need to cripple the hardware spec.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  37. Anonymous Coward

    A blip that was ruined

    I wanted a modern Psion 3mx. I got a Snow Leopard Dell mini10v with 6+hours of battery life, multitouch operations, (& time machine backup), and it cost a total of £250. It does what I want. But the larger section of the netbooks on the market cost too much (particularly if you have to pay for MS Office), and dismal battery life (often from running a bloated OS and a load of security software).

    There's a market for small and cheap. I think the Samsung Tab will be success. It'll then be phased out as people try and upsell bigger devices until someone reinvents small and cheap again.

  38. Rogerborg

    Nowt wrong with netbooks

    Rip off whatever Windows + Demo/Ad/Nagware bloat it comes pre-infested with, slap a lightweight Lunix on, and they're perfectly serviceable for sofa and bed surfing and some light office use. I've even done some casual software development on an EEE PC when nothing better was available. Just buy cheap, and set your expectations to that price point.

  39. David Lucke

    Not just keyboard

    The differentiator between netbook and tablet isn't just keyboard. Its operating system. And that's cruicial.

    If you get a windows netbook, you have access to all the software that runs on windows. Sure it doesn't run too fast, but it runs, and you can control it with pointer and keyboard. That gives you access to a vast number of applications (not apps) that already exists and do useful things.

    I would submit that the recent drop in purchases is that the early ones ran Windows XP, which the atom could handle. They didn't become seriously slow until windows 7 became compulsory, because the atom can't handle that. As soon as Intel comes up with an atom that can handle it, expect to see netbook sales pick up again - at least so long as they release one before tablet OS's become directly competetive with Windows/Linux.

  40. Tim Walker

    I love my Eee 701...

    ...which I picked up last year for barely more than £100. Granted, the WVGA (800x480) display is a bit small, but I can cope with it (and there's always the VGA output - works nicely with an HD TV).

    The 8Gb SSD is quiet and reliable; the OS (Linux, Eeebuntu 3) runs nippily enough for most tasks; and I sync much of the home directory on the SSD with Dropbox, in case of loss. It's a great little machine, and until ARM-based netbooks come out which can run ARM Ubuntu, I think I'll be sticking with my Eee for a good while yet.

    And FWIW: I don't consider machines with hard drives and Windows to be netbooks. In my view, they're just shrunken laptops.

    (why isn't there a "light blue touchpaper" icon, chaps? ;-) )

  41. Jonathon Green

    Netbook is a use case not a product class...

    ...for my money.

    To take one example it would save a lot of tedious wrangling over whether the new baby Macbook Air is an luber-portable laptop or a ludicrously overpriced and overpowered netbook. For some (many? most??) purchasers it'll be the latter, for others the former, and for others it'll migrate between the two on a daily basis. Really dioesn't mnatter as long as everybody's happy...

    Now please can we go back top the original "Small Cheap Computer" nomencalture, go back to looking at pictures of the original beach-bunny Eee Girl, and have a comment icon version of her to use in theads like this :-).

  42. tanj666

    Netbooks vs Tablets

    I have had two different netbooks, the original Acer Aspire One running linux with 8GB SSD and recently a newer Acer Apire One running XP, 160GB HDD. Biggest difference and why the swap? The second one ran 11.6 screen not 8.9 and the res was 1366*768. Perfectly suitable for everyday home use.

    I have powerful core-i7 for games and serious stuff, but for lounge surfing and simple emails, the netbook is great. I also use them for keeping spreadsheets updated as they can cope quite well with that task and for bits of word processing whenever I feel the need.

    My wife has stolen the netbook from me, so I'm trying to get a second-hand original linix based AA1 with SSD to replace it.

    I'd love a tablet of some kind, not the apple though, I actually didn't like it that much. Perhaps Android 3.0 as I have an android phone I love. Perhaps Win7? who knows. Right now I'd like one but don't have a foggiest notion what I'd do with it.

  43. copsewood

    I dont use mine very often

    But it is extremely useful when I do. Holidays and when I have to sit through a boring meeting in which I am needed for 10 minutes out of 2 hours. Or a committee meeting where we need real time access to data on a web application. LETS trading events where the transactions can be put through in real time, getting rid of the paperwork. The Acer Aspire one is small, lightweight and unobtrusive - a heavier laptop wouldn't suit as I can't be bothered to lug anything heavier around with me. It came with Linpus light and a price tag to match - I wouldn't have bought it at more than £200. With Ubuntu netbook remix it goes OK, atom processor a little slow but no real problem. The fact it was designed for Linux meant all the hardware could run the Linux I prefer.

    It was Microsoft that killed this class of device. Add a spinning disk and enough CPU and battery for Windows and the price went up to more than what you would want to spend on this class of device, especially for something used a couple of times a month or for for the odd week or fortnight away on holiday.

  44. The Indomitable Gall

    The problem...

    Sociologically, the netbook was proof that what consumers want and what the industry supplies are very different things.

    For most of us, we don't want ever-increasing performance and we don't want stratospheric storage increases.

    We can already do most of what we want with our current computers -- what we want is to make them cheaper and lighter.

    But the tech industry insists on increasing capacity and power, at the cost that the full-fat PC continues to be the same size and weight, carrying the same price tag as ever.

    Unfortunately, the industry cannot supply the demand for netbooks, as the software is still designed for the spiralling resource availability on a standard PC.

    The constant upgrade cycle of hardware and OS has trapped program vendors into following the resource trend, and in fact it benefits them by giving them access to the lucrative upgrade market too.

    Progress on the desktop is now progress for progress's sake -- only a few specialists and the few remaining console-less gamers care.

    The netbook was the majority telling the industry what we want.

    The netbook slump is the result of the industry telling us what they want us to buy.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Oh, plus...

      People aren't used to the notion of a docking station. Maybe the netbook will make a bit of a comeback as people get used to HDMI and using the same screen for TV and computing. When my parents' PC was on the blink and I hooked my eee up to their keyboard, mouse and big shiny LCD instead, it became an absolute killer browsing appliance.

  45. Neil Hoskins

    Where's my ARM Netbook?

    Atom chips are still power hogs. While you're at it, you can lose the glide pad, use the extra space for a better keyboard, and include a touch screen. An appropriate bloat-free OS would be nice too. Quite a lot like the old Psion Netbook, in fact, but with up to date hardware.

    1. The Brave Sir Robin

      How about...

      an ARM powered netbook running RISCOS ? I'd buy one.

  46. James Wilson
    Thumb Up

    Me too!

    Like many other commenters here, I love my Acer Aspire 1. It's very portable, boots up quickly and has just about a big enough screen for browsing. Plus I can have a look at my camera pics at a decent size.

    Of course I was one of the lucky ones - I got the 1GB RAM, 16GB SSD, 3G one for 165 quid. If I was offered a slightly larger one with a spinning HD I didn't want or need, no 3G and Windows cludging it up, for getting on for twice as much cash (i.e. what seems to be available now), well, no thank you very much.

  47. Blitterbug

    It's not about Win vs Linux

    This shouldn't be about Win vs Linux; the same arguments are true regardless of base hardware. Yes, netbooks are quicker (as are all PCs) running *nix variants. We all know this. We should be comparing the netbook spec against 'full-blown' laptops and deciding whether it is a 'dead end', as per the thrust of the article.

    In my experience, most of the early linux netbooks were returned cos the punters simply wanted what they knew - eg Windows - so the manufacturers responded to simple market forces & went to MS to see if there was a suitable OS available, and we all know the rest; Vista was too bloated so XP was de-mothballed until Win7 was ready. MS mandated a lowish res in return for very low license costs of around £25 - £30 per unit.

    None of this means Win = any better or worse than it was in the first place. It's about whether this form factor has any relevance, whatever the OS - and of course you can still install Ubuntu or whatever you want on your shiny new Win7 netbook if you choose. The Win license is around £30 of the total £250 cost, so not a huge waste for the wonderful hardware feature set you get.

  48. jamie 5

    I quite like mine

    I have a HP mini 210HD, with 10.1" 1366x768 display and 95% full size chicklet keyboard and built in WWAN.

    Even windows 7 starter on it works nicely.

    I don't have a car where I live and I have to carry my laptop with me where ever I go. My Dell D630 was slowly destroying my back. The HP is much better.

    My only gripe is the piss poor battery life. Out of the box they made the machine go into hibernation when it hit 9%, and yet they don't multiply their (fantasy) usage figures by 0.91.

  49. Al Jones

    Will $500 tablets replace $250 netbooks?

    Not likely.

    If/when we get functional tablets for the same price as fucntional netbooks, then it'll be a different story.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Well, my Toshi NB 300


    The NB 200 only died after a radiator dropped of the wall onto it (I'd estimate 150 kilos - it took three of us to lift it enough to slide it out...)

    I love it. More than fast enough to be my portable office, built like a brick - I'm happy to drop it from 8' onto a concrete floor to demnostrate this, and often do so. Tip a pint of water over it, while charging, and pour it out the USB ports (much beer involved in that one) wake up the next day and it's fine. And I can run 5 innstances of EVEOnline when in the pub. I don't see what there is to not love...

    I don;t really understand how tablets can help productivity while on the move. You strain your wrist reading from them, and you cant touch type. FAIL.

    Netbooks FTW!

    Heart: because I love mine in a decidedly unbliblical sense.

  51. Zog The Undeniable
    Thumb Up

    A netbook works for us

    We got an Acer Aspire One D260 last week. I upgraded the RAM to 2GB (harder than it should be, since you have to take the thing apart) and performance with Windows 7 is, if anything, slightly better then the old Dell Inspiron 6000/Windows XP notebook it replaced. The best thing is that the internal fan doesn't run when playing MP3s, so it's a much better media device for plugging into the hi-fi; the Inspiron was too noisy.

    You do have to make a few performance tweaks though; as well as adding RAM, remove all the useless crap from the startup group (run msconfig and be horrified what's in there), turn off animated menus and all that rubbish, don't smooth screen fonts (is it just me, or does smoothing make things LESS readable?), turn off disk swapping etc.

    Besides playing music, it does web surfing (plays HD YouTube stuff without jittering) and e-mail just fine. I don't want to run Office on it or play games - we have a hairy-chested tower PC upstairs for that.

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