The Netbooks Category Grows More Nuanced

Carl Weinschenk
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Netbooks that Mean Business

Check out the leading netbooks that have the power to make a difference in your business.


Netbooks may seem to be a fairly simple and straightforward group of devices that sit between the smartphones and laptops. That's certainly true-and it also is true that the category is growing in complexity.


Ars Technica does an admirable job of drawing the demarcations between the subcategories. The prerequisite to understanding precisely what is in the report is a working knowledge of PC elements and the various code names from vendors.


The piece says the most basic level of netbooks are ARM-based smartbooks based on single- and dual-core Cortex A8 "systems-on-a-chip." The next layer up is Oak Trail, which the writer says is "essentially a netbook version of Moorestown." Moorestown, the writer adds, is Intel's Atom-based platform for embedded applications. Oak Trail is followed by Intel's Pine Trail and Canoe Lake. The top of the heap, the writer says, is Nvidia's ION 2, which uses Pine Trail.


It all is very confusing, but the story helps out with a simplified chart. The main point is that the there are significant differences between netbooks, and shoppers are best advised to do a good deal of research based on what the device offers and users' needs.


The natural competitor of the netbooks is the iPad and other tablet-like devices. IT Business Edge's Ainsley Jones reported on a Retrevo survey that indicated that the iPad indeed is slowing down netbook sales.


Folks should keep an open mind, however. This Channel Insider slideshow offers 10 reasons why the netbook is a better choice for business. While it seems that the writer was stretching to come up with an even 10, many of the points make sense: The iPad lacks Flash, netbooks that use Windows are more functional and flexible, the iPad is a first-generation device, and it lacks a keypad and the ability to multitask.

The Computex show last week in Taipei offered a lot of information about the direction of netbooks. 7Nerds said that vendors in the category are addressing performance challenges with new chips such as the Snapdragon from Qualcomm and Nvidia's Tegra processor. The keyboard and screen size challenges are being met by companies such as Synaptics' ClickPad. High-quality liquid crystal displays (LCDs) also are on the way. The writer concludes that the category has considerable upside.

The world of "tween" devices-not smartphones, but not fully fledged laptops-is proliferating and becoming more complex and nuanced. Business users should sort through the options carefully -- and without assuming from the start that the iPad is the best choice.

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