Although Apple may not like them, netbooks are gaining popularity with a lot of consumers. But what does the future hold for a product that's wedged between laptops that continually drop in price and smartphones that are always getting smarter?
Netbooks seem to have found a solid foothold in the PC market. Their light weight and portability, paired with good performance, satisfies the needs of a large number of users. These days, you can complete so many projects with a speedy browser and a fast Internet connection that a more powerful laptop is simply expensive overkill.
It's a certainty that netbooks will become faster, smaller and more powerful in all aspects of their performance. ASUS, HP, Toshiba, Acer and other manufacturers are already implementing new designs with more powerful processors.
Operating system considerations will likely have a major impact on the future of netbooks. For instance, Microsoft won't let netbook manufacturers install Windows XP Professional Edition on these machines, primarily because the slim profit margin on netbooks means Microsoft doesn't get much of a cut. As a result, many consumers may opt for more expensive laptops to make sure their OS isn't stripped of critical capabilities.
Some netbooks come with alternatives to Windows. Linux is very popular, especially with lower-priced netbooks that don't have (or don't want) the horsepower and capacity to run an OS such as Windows XP. And Google introduced its open-source Chrome OS with intentions of targeting the netbook market before branching out into other portable devices.
Software aside, will netbooks endure as a product category? Or will they be pushed out by a new convergence of laptops and smartphones? Will recovering economies mean deeper pockets for consumers who ultimately choose more expensive alternatives?
At the moment, netbooks seem safe. There is no other computer category that packs such a powerful processing punch in a small size. If you need an effective means to get online for work and play wherever you roam, a netbook may save you money and increase your computing potential, too.
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