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Doug's Mailbag: The Netbook Effect

Readers share their thoughts on netbooks, which Microsoft recently admitted are partly responsible for the company's PC revenue slide:

Microsoft is just plan stupid if it does not provide one or two versions of Windows 7 that PC manufacturers can put on their netbooks. The netbook market is growing and with the economy like it is, people want a cheap PC that they can do basic word processing, spreadsheets and presentations on (plus access the Internet). By making the the price too high, in the long run MS will lose money and lose the netbook market. People will not buy XP netbooks, simply because XP will not be supported in the near future. By pricing Windows 7 for netbooks low, MS would be opening up a whole new market for Office 2007, etc.

My Asus Eee PC 900A runs just fine with full-blown Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty installed on a 16GB SSD from an external DVD-ROM, thank you very much.

As one aficionado observed, netbooks are for "when a cell phone is not enough and a laptop is too much." At 2.5 pounds or less, the netbook enables travelers to easily take their office with them through the airport with minimum fuss. No one suggests this as a daily substitute for heavy-duty office production, but it will conveniently do the job when necessary. And all for a very small price (hardware: $250, software: $0).

Here's my prediction, for what it's worth. I'm guessing there's a sort of "flash in the pan" curve for netbooks generally. I think there's a "Wow that's neat" factor driving a lot of sales, but when the dust settles, folks are going to find that the machines are less useful than they expected.

I picked up a cheap lower-end netbook from some months ago. My thought was that I could have it in my toolkit as a "known good" machine for field troubleshooting calls. My donnybrook came when I tried to use it for online chat while working through a password reset issue for a client. I simply could not type accurately on the thing at any useful speed. In this case, I doubt that a higher-end unit would have helped all that much; the keyboard is going to be cramped and slow. I find myself drawn instead to some of the super-light conventional notebooks, like the ThinkPad X series or some of the Toshiba Proteges. They are nearly as light as a netbook, yet are totally usable.

Jack responds to one reader's comparison of the search for good open source software to prospecting for gold:

I get a kick out of the people writing in, saying they "use very little open source software" and comparing it to the gold mines that promise much and deliver little, utilizing the open source/standards of SMTP, DNS and HTML across TCP/IP to communicate their disdain of open source.

The vendors making a profit off of software have the financial resources to blast the open source movement. Thankfully, the open source movement does not profit from their work and implementations!

And for those of you keeping score in the Zune vs. iPod contest, here's one more vote for the iPod:

I have been a fairly loyal Apple/Macintosh fan for over 15 years (I assimilated to support Windows in a desire to continue to feed and clothe my family). I have had the same 20GB iPod for YEARS! I have yet to reinstall the OS or initialize it. It just keeps on working. Both my kids have iPods and I finally talked my lovely wife into carrying an iPod when she goes out running. Never had a problem! My daughter has never complained about the small screen on her 8GB Nano and likes being able to watch movies on it. Count me as a confirmed iPod fan.

I have seen too many Zunes and Zune-like devises tossed out in the trash because they did not work and the user did not want to put any more time into it to ever consider wasting my money on one. I hate to say it, but this time I am with Wall Street: Kill the Zune. Give up and admit that the iPod is just a better product. Then do what every other hardware manufacturer does -- come up with a better product!

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/17/2009 at 1:17 PM


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