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What is a netbook?

A picture named eee.jpgIn October, I wrote a piece that explained why I like netbooks. It listed a set of criteria that says if something is a netbook or not. Yes, it's my opinion. But someone has to start this conversation. There have been some ridiculous ideas of what netbooks are and aren't. According to Steve Jobs, an iPhone is netbook. Heh. He's making a joke. It's funny. I have an iPhone and I like it -- but I have a netbook too.

Anyway, without further ado, here's my list of what makes a netbook a netbook.

1. Small size.

2. Low price.

3. Battery life of 4+ hours. Battery can be replaced by user.

4. Atom processor.

5. Rugged.

6. Built-in wifi, 3 USB ports, SD card reader. Ethernet, SVGA, webcam, audio in and out.

7. Runs any software I want (no platform vendor to decide what's appropriate).

8. Competition (users have choice and can switch vendors at any time).

9. Windows XP.

All these things are important. I think we could make room for a Macintosh netbook, but it's tough because one of the things that's super important is that we're not locked into a vendor. I could replace my netbook with an MSI or Acer, even though I've bought two Eee PCs. Apple could make their operating system run on the hardware these other guys make, so they could ship a netbook that meets these criteria. But we're all pretty sure, if they deign to make a netbook, that it won't offer users this choice. We'll have to wait to see how it feels, but I'm not sure if I'd switch to an Apple netbook, even though I use a Macintosh desktop and use Mac Minis as my entertainment center system (I have three of them). I've been able to integrate XP computers into this network without too much difficulty. (Which surprised me, when I switched to Macs in 2005, I thought I'd never use Windows again.)

A picture named dog.jpgAnother concern came up in a recent thread on FriendFeed with Kevin Tofel of GigaOm, who is one of my closest netbook buddies. We share information and pretty much share a philosophy of netbooks. He says there's still a cloud over XP, that Microsoft says they're going to withdraw it at some point. They keep saying that. To which I said, Geez Louise guys, come on -- you have a winner. Microsoft has to be the most out to lunch technology company out there. By now you'd think they'd realize that the market doesn't want a new operating system, that XP is just fine, thank you. But they have their own reasons, like the auto makers, to do what they do. Or the journalists. The last people they'd let drive the market are the users, right? Microsoft is basically a full employment charity for operating system programmers. They should let all those programmers go, and hire some new ones from the user community, fix bugs and give the users what they want. Of if they insist, keep them employed, but please let us continue to use XP. It's not a half-bad operating system and its cheap and runs on cheap hardware. We like it! smile

Microsoft's attitude about XP reminds me of the National Lampoon issue where they had a picture of a cute dog with a gun pointed to his head. The headline said: If you don't buy this magazine we'll kill this dog. (Ouch.)

Update #1: Don MacArthur says the purpose of Vista is DRM. That's why Microsoft wants to kill XP. And maybe that's why we like netbooks -- you can watch a movie or listen to a podcast without hassles.

Update #2: Other features you should expect to find on your netbook: a webcam, audio in and out. AM Pressman says some netbooks only have two USB ports. That's debatable. It's amazing how quickly the market has rejected products without all the features of the others. Two USB ports are the minimum you can get by with. Three really is pretty important, beyond "nice to have." I added the webcam and audio features to the list, above.

Update #3: People immediately say that I should broaden the definition or narrow it to include or exclude their idea of a netbook. That's not what I'm trying to do, though. There really is a specific product the market is settling on, and it's happening quickly. Partially due to constraints Microsoft is putting on XP licensees; and partially because there are applications that require certain configurations. I'm not trying to influence anyone, I don't have that power and don't seek it. I'm doing something pretty much like reporting -- this is what I see. You may see soemthing else, or may have a different purpose, and you can (of course) to write your own piece explaining netbooks.

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