Netbooks

Jeff Atwood had a post on his blog the other day about the overall awesomeness of netbooks, and how they signal a new era of open computing. I’m not sure I agree.

I like the idea of an ultra-small laptop that is used primarily for running applications over the Internet. When I was shopping for a laptop last summer, I checked out the current crop of netbooks and seriously considered going in that direction. The problem is devices that size have limitations, which eventually made me go with a traditional, albeit small, laptop.

The biggest issues for me with netbooks are the too-small screen and the fact that they are still somewhat underpowered. I know the early EE, Dell, and Acer machines had screens around 10 inches. I guess Acer is now making one that’s slightly above 11, but that’s still tiny. I was afraid I’d be squinting to see details.

The Intel Atom seemed very cool, but I wanted the ability to run some heavyweight local applications if desired (think Visual Studio), and I worried the system would end up having sub-optimal performance. I hadn’t heard about Intel’s newest netbook CPUs, but dual-core certainly is an improvement. Still, for only a slightly larger form factor, I got a 2.6 GHz Core 2 Duo in my Dell Latitude.

As small as they are, they still aren’t as easy to take with you as a smartphone. Jeff considered having an inexpensive netbook and access to the Internet, without being chained to a wireless provider, to be a boon to computer users everywhere. But since wireless hotspots don’t exist everywhere yet, I don’t see how you can truly have the freedom to access the Internet wherever you want without going through one of the big wireless providers. I’ve been in lots of places without a hotspot but that did have T-Mobile coverage, and I’ve often wished I had a broadband modem to connect.

Even though they are neat computers, truly, they aren’t going to be for everyone.

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