Why Netbooks Aren't There Yet: Page 2

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Do any of today’s netbooks come close to the above ideal? None of them have instant-on or touch screen LCDs, so strike those for now. Most new models, including the HP Mini 1000, the Acer Aspire One, and the Asus Eee PC 1000H, have the right price point, at least in a base configuration.

The HP Mini 1000 offers an internal WWAN option, while the Lenovo S10 includes an ExpressCard slot. Few models exhibit long battery life; most last in the three-hour range, which is the same as a regular notebook. One exception is the 6-cell battery in the Asus Eee PC 1000H, which is good for a stellar seven hours, and some Asus Eee PCs can exceed four hours as well.

Since I referenced Apple several times already, it’s natural to conclude that they should release a netbook of their own. But netbooks run counter to the Apple model, which is heavily dependent on locally installed software, a walled garden media ecosystems, and high-end, high-margin products that exude design finesse more than bargain prices. That doesn’t mean they won’t ever release one, but don’t expect one next month.

(Besides, they’d rather sell you an existing iPod Touch or an iPhone.)

I give it 12 months before we see netbooks that begin to address the above issues in earnest. The easiest to tackle are the first two—working out an instant-on disk image and squeezing extra battery life out of today’s netbooks are within the realm of what technology is currently capable of.

Persistent WWAN connectivity is tougher due to how precious and expensive cellular broadband is. It would take some savvy on the order of Jobs and the AT&T/iPhone deal to break through the $60/month price barrier. WiMAX is one option here, since I presume Sprint and Clearwire are looking for an early 4G foothold in cities other than Baltimore.

The touchscreen LCD is the only idea I mentioned that I’m not entirely sold on. That’s not because I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. I just don’t know if it can be done inexpensively enough, and perform well enough, given today’s technology.

A really good trackpad and button combination would be a welcome consolation prize; it’s a sore spot on many of today’s netbooks. Linux machines run well out of the box at the base price points—$319 to $349—but XP models tend to require a memory and/or CPU bump before they run well.

In short: keep netbooks in the $300 to $400 range, address the above issues, and watch them begin to cut into regular notebook sales in earnest.

Looking to buy a netbook? Be sure to read Datamation’s comparison of six of the latest netbooks before you make your decision. Or, for hands-on testing, One Guy, Three Netbooks.

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Tags: Linux, Windows, iPhone, Intel, netbooks

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