Business, Hardware

The Evolution of the netbook; or how to take a good thing too far

Today I was checking out some hardware for a small portable system that I would be able to write with and maybe watch the odd video or two if I was bored. So I thought a nice netbook would work, something like the EEE PC or the Wind. It was while I was looking these over that I realized that the netbook as we know it is dead.

That’s right; we are watching the death of the netbook and the birth of the mini-notebook. It is a sad evolutionary process to watch. The original idea behind the netbook was a small portable device that would allow for internet, office productivity and a few low-end games and videos. This was a great concept and the 7-inch systems that soon flowed out were well put together and actually had more power under the hood than needed.

But it soon became the old game of cat and mouse between the OEMs as each one tried to stuff more and more power under the tiny little keyboards. Next came more powerful CPUs in the form of Via’s Nano, and Intel’s Atom followed HD capable graphics thanks to nVidia’s ION. We also see Microsoft jumping in, they are even demonstrating 1080p video playback on ION. But the fun does not stop there; we even hear nVidia pushing high-end gaming on its 9600M IGP combined with ION.

So we have a great idea, shoved into the rat race of one-upmanship that companies do these days and we end up with a product that is light years away from its intent. I cannot imagine watching a Blu-Ray movie on a 10-inch screen and there is no way I would want to game on something that tiny. All that most people would want from something the size of a netbook would be stable performance and long battery life. I am not against putting out a better product, but as the OEMs stuff more and more into what was once the netbook, our inexpensive portable work machine becomes an expensive gadget with no practical use.

We see the industry’s need to prove who has the bigger tool will ruin a product for us all. Of course we get all of this in the name of providing a better product. But the funny thing is that until the industry told us we needed a better netbook; no one knew or cared.