Netbooks are Already Here: In Fact You Already Own One

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jan 22, 2009 in Tech |

What so many nerds don’t get is that a netbook can be the size of a Moleskine sketch book...

From time-to-time techies go through certain fads where a certain idea just seems right, so we often yearn for a solution to which there is no problem. A good example of this occuired in the 90s when many smart folks realized that while a PC with Windows 95, Netscape and a dialup modem were great — what if you could push this concept one step further and have a consumer friendly all-in-one unit? The answer was WebTV and the device was a resounding failure.

Once again I see a hunger amoungst engineers for a netbook: a light weight and low cost laptop whose focus is to interact with the cloud. Of course these engineers see this consumer friendly gadet as that holy grail of never having to answer a tech support call from a relative or co-worker. It also feeds into an older notion of terminals that talk to mainframes which are maintained by an elite caste of programmer priests who know what’s best for you. Yet of course most of these fanboys would never dream of being stuck with such a device — after all the fun of owning hotrod is playing under the hood.

But I have some shocking news for all of you: Not only is the netbook already here, but it was put out by Apple over a year ago! It’s called an iPod Touch and there’s even a sister device called an iPhone which will talk to the net anywhere. Not only that but unlike a device with a huge laptop footprint — this nifty gizmo will fit into your pocket. You see what the nerds just don’t get is that a book doesn’t have to be the size and weight of hard covered text book, but in fact it can be the size of a pocket bible or a Moleskine sketchbook which creative types like myself favor.

A Mockup for the Nintendo DS v2

On an obvious level the proof of this concept is that the new Nintendo DSi has picked up on quite a few iPhone features in terms of functionality. in fact what most Americans don’t realize is that in Japan the Nintendo DS is more than a game device — when you go to a museum you’ll find your guide software comes on a DS and there are titles for the platform that focus on everything from selecting wine to getting your makeup right. And yes the DSi features a browser for those who want to look at the web.

In fact I’d even take my thesis a step further and say that the T-Mobile Sidekick which dates from 2002 was also an early netbook of sorts. I use this an example over the Blackberry as it was a device that made it in the consumer market rather than being the favorite of geeks. And geeks is the main keyword here — it’s mostly techies who love the real estate of the big screen. But te mundanes like to do one task at a time as a gadget to them is just a momentary engagement when waiting on line at the supermarket or trying to find that special bar to impress your date (you know the one with the chocolate martinis and the bathroom doors that fog up).

Of course taking the other side you can argue that there is a proven market for Gen Y users who like to sit on the couch and watch TV while playing with their laptop. But again there’s already a device for this market — it’s the Macbook Air. Now unlike the traditional definition of a netbook it has a full operating system and a giant price tag too. But as with all other tech over the next year or two you’ll see every laptop go on a weight diet and drop in price. The current laptops of today will start looking like a clunky Kaypro II before you know it.

The Kaypro II from 1982 wasn't the first portable computer (that was the Osborne) but for jus $1,595 and weighing 26 pounds it could be carried to a science fiction convention in your hood.

Above: The Kaypro II from 1982 wasn’t the first portable computer (that was the Osborne) but for jus $1,595 and weighing 26 pounds it could be carried to a science fiction convention in your hood.

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