What exactly is a “Netbook” and how is it different from a laptop computer?
This question was answered on November 28, 2008. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
A Netbook is a small, inexpensive computer that is designed primarily as a communication device on the Internet
To make sense of the Netbook , it helps to understand the history of computing when it comes to the average user.
Most of us started using computers during the period of time that one of Microsoft’s operating systems (DOS or Windows) and accompanying software programs were necessary in order to accomplish our computing tasks.
The introduction of the Internet as a means to access, process and store information started a development trend that reduced the importance of what we used as a computer and what operating system it was running.
The most common uses of a computer these days include browsing the Internet, e-mail and word processing, all of which can now be done with virtually any computer of any age and completely online (no need for specific software on a specific computer to accomplish these tasks).
A Netbook is a new way of accessing those online resources.
A traditional laptop has more features such as CD / DVD players and special video displays, has more processing power, is larger in size and weighs and costs significantly more than a Netbook.
A Netbook is designed to be a small (usually 8 to 10 inch screens), light (usually under 4 to 5 pounds) and inexpensive alternative (usually under $500) to traditional laptop computers Netbooks tend to run on older or non-traditional operating systems such as Windows XP Home or Linux.
Think of a Netbook as a device that is positioned between Smartphones, such as the iPhone or Blackberry and traditional laptops.
For a growing number of folks that are mobile users, having something more powerful and more capable of storage than a Smartphone, but less costly, smaller and lighter than a traditional laptop makes sense.
If you want to be able to watch DVD movies, play today’s most popular video games or need to install special software (like corporate VPN programs, etc.) in order to function while on the road, then a Netbook is not likely a good fit.
If you only want to surf the Net, check your web-based e-mail or access other online only services, a Netbook may be the perfect solution.
Another upside to these smaller form factor devices is that you have a shot at using it on an airplane if the person in front of you reclines their seat (nearly impossible with today’s large screen laptops in cramped coach airline seating).
Of course, since you won’t have Internet access on your flight (but maybe soon) you will have to remember to download whatever it is that you want to work with while on the flight before you lose your Internet connection.
The working Netbook concept is only about a year old, so suffice it to say, many changes will occur in this genre of computing devices in the near future.
In other words, whatever is available today in the Netbook world will likely change at lightning speed, so if you don’t really need one right now, waiting will likely pay off in spades.
In my opinion, the litmus test for whether a Netbook is for you is based on how you use your computer today.
If you can examine your computing behavior and very little of what you care about when you are on the road resides on your local computer, you’re probably a good candidate for a Netbook.
If you have a pile of programs that you will need to install in order to be effective while on the road, you’re not likely to find a Netbook a worthwhile investment (but stay tuned, because the Internet, operating system wars and something called “cloud computing” could change everything for everyone!)
About the author
Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on November 28, 2008
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