Friday, April 03, 2009

Netbook nation?

For years, I was always concerned that PCs had more power than the average person needed. Consider application software. MS Works not only has enough power for the average user--like my mom and step-sister--but is far less expensive than MS Office. But so many people think they need the more expensive versions.

Similarly, everyone always bought PCs and laptops with the most power they could afford, even though they rarely used even half of that capability. For example, many people don't play games or perform professional music and video editing. So why do they need all of that graphics and memory capability?

Building on the $100 computer that was developed for use in developing nations, manufacturers have realized that maybe some people in the developed world might be ready to trade down to a level of computing that's appropriate to them and started to offer similar low-power devices that run on the open source Linux operating system.

Called netbooks, these attractive looking and even more attractively-priced PCs have been a huge hit. At $300-$800 for a typical device (though higher priced ones exist), they're selling well. (OK--that's even if they're a bit hard to use. My fingers constantly type the wrong key on my ASUS eeePC.)

But a new partnership between mobile phone companies and manufacturers of netbooks could result in even lower costs. According to a New York Times article this week, as low as $50 in a trial program by AT&T Wireless in Atlanta, and maybe even free (with a commitment to a long-term mobile phone plan, of course).

And it sounds like the manufacturers of higher end computing products are concerned, as recent sales data suggests that netbooks will affect their bottom lines.

Read the entire article at

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