Netbooks are small, not crippled
I’ve posted already about my netbook, and I’m sure made it very clear that I like it. Suggestions that people will give up their netbooks for ‘real’ machines once there is some kind of economic recovery are in my opinion ridiculous. I didn’t buy my netbook because it was cheap (though I’m pleased that it was). I bought it because it has sufficient compute power for all of the applications that I’d like to run on the move, and it has the weight, durability and battery life to stay with me on the move. People have been paying 5x more for ultralight sub-notbooks for some time; I suspect that the bottom just dropped out of that market.
Of course the experience can be crippled if you (or more likely your OEM) choose to install crippled software; which sadly appears to be the way things are headed. This seems like a fairly perverse marketing trick to me. The netbook I have today is perfectly capable of running a full fat OS, full fat office suite, full fat browser(s) and a media player (at least in standard definition). It can in fact do all of these things at once. Time, and Moore’s law, will only make netbooks more capable, though to be honest once they have 720p displays and enough processing power to drive HD video then I think the top of the utility curve will be reached (netbooks are a great example of Classen’s ‘logarithmic law of usefulness’). The point that I keep making to people is that when desktop processors hit 1GHz a few years ago that was probably as much compute power as any one user (at one time) could reasonably use. The low power processors in netbooks are clocked a little faster than the old 1Ghz parts, but manage to deliver similar subjective performance, with far less power consuption. In the meanwhile software continued soaking up the cycles, but recently that trend has reversed. This means that the same, good enough, subjective user experience will continue to get cheaper – making the disparity between hardware cost and software cost look less and less reasonable.
I hope that the OEM’s at least offer the option to buy a real OS to go with these machines, expecially if the difference is the $30 or so that Tim estimates; though I suspect that other commentators will see this as another way that people will be driven into the arms of the open source OS community.
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