Byte-sized computing

The brief life of the “netbook” is small in comparison to the giant impact it has made on the market in the last year. In an ever-changing economy, people have flocked to these lightweight, inexpensive laptops.

The netbook spark was derived from the One Laptop Per Child Program (OLPC).  OLPC is a non-profit organization created to produce affordable laptops  for educational purposes. Its laptop, called the “XO” comes equipped with educational software. Selling for $100, the XO was marketed as an effort to bring children in developing countries into the computer age.

In 2008, computer designer ASUS saw the impact made by the conveniently sized laptop  and designed its own. The result was the Eee PC, a fully functional mini laptop.  Its overwhelming success caused HP, Acer and Dell to dive into the pack.

Netbooks come with Windows XP instead of Windows Vista, an operating system that demands more resources. 

“The mini laptops are designed for the person on the go with a need for Internet connectivity in a pinch,” said Robert King, an HP representative and business marketing student. “The specs aren’t phenomenal, but people love them. The keyboard is one area that sets the HP Mini apart from the competition because it is 92 percent of a regular QWERTY keyboard.” 

The fact that netbooks don’t come equipped with a CD/DVD drive and have an undersized hard drive hasn’t deterred the public from snatching them up. Based on information in DisplaySearch’s Quarterly Notebook PC Shipment and Forecast Report for the first quarter of 2009, netbooks are projected to grow 65 percent, while traditional laptops expect only a 3 percent increase.

In 2008, netbooks held absolutely no market share. A year later, netbooks can thank the recession and faltering economy for thrusting them into the consumer spotlight. Furthermore, the New York Times reported at the beginning of April that AT&T has been selling netbooks for $50 to consumers who purchase its Internet service plans.

However, the fad has yet to reach the USF Computer Store. Though employees were reluctant to comment on why mini computers aren’t stocked, they mentioned that netbooks are available for special order.

All the excitement about mini laptops with next-to-nothing pricing has inspired Samsung to pursue the perfect $99 laptop, which will offer a super-thin design and long-lasting batteries.

“HP’s research and developement department went into the field to find out what consumers wanted in a laptop. They went to the auto industry to find out what customers were looking for in a car, and then applied that to the mini,” King said. “They really wanted to find out how to make a great experience for the customer. One of the things they discovered was that customers wanted something in between a smartphone and a standard laptop that would allow them to check e-mail and the Internet in between home and the office.  The result is the HP Mini.”