Not talkin' 'bout a revolution

InfoWorld’s Neil McAllister gives netbooks a serious fluffing in his piece called “The shape of the coming netbook revolution”.

For example, did you know that netbooks are…

Cheap, portable and packed with features that cater to Net-savvy consumers…

“Packed with features”? Ah, like email and a web browser and… a screen… and, er… that other thing.

And “Net-savvy”? Really? Did you write that? Because, wow.

To support his trite argument about how super-cool netbooks are, MacAllister links to a piece on a ChangeWave survey that shows that given the choice between netbooks and oxygen, they’ll take the netbook, thank you very much, where the following can be found:

Increased notebook demand could mean good news for Apple Inc., whose market share has been slipping, according to ChangeWave, partly because it does not offer a cheap option such as a netbook.

The link here is to a piece on another ChangeWave survey (not market share analysis) of future buying preferences. It says fewer people ChangeWave surveyed said they were going to buy Macs and while that might be predictive of market share, that’s not market share. The Macalope’s not even sure if ChangeWave does market share analysis. They mostly do surveys.

But back to MacAllister who tells us what is it about these netbooks that make them so hot, hot, hot.

Netbooks’ tiny screens and cramped keyboards can be fatiguing to use for long periods, and their low-power processors struggle under heavy workloads. Business users will be dismayed by their lack of security features… And with their closed hardware designs and limited drive space, most models have short upgrade lifecycles.

Oh, Neil. You had the Macalope at tiny screens.

Flush with their intial successes, however, manufacturers have responded to these complaints with variations on the original theme. … Both Asus and Acer plan to ship netbooks with 11.6-inch screens in the near future. … Some models list for $700 or more, leaving many customers wondering where the netbook category ends and where laptops begin.

So the main appeal of netbooks is they’re small and cheap, but the problem with them is that they’re small and cheap. So companies are responding to criticism by making them larger and more expensive, effectively turning them back into notebooks.

But, still…

Netbooks! Whaa-hoo! Wave of the future! Number one! McAllister can see your house from up here!

And, hey, who ordered the IT industry group think?

A Linux-based UI may not cut it for day-to-day business computing, but for limited Web access, file viewing, and communications it should be more than adequate for most users.

Oh, really?

Look, the Linux UI is as exciting as dried toast, but is it any worse than XP, which is the operating system most businesses run (now available as a downgrade from Vista for only $50 more!)?

And how ludicrous is this complaint about the Linux desktop in a piece about netbooks? “Here’s your netbook with the glorious XP desktop from two thousand fricking one, business user! Enjoy the cramped keyboard and the tiny screen!” Right. Linux is really the drawback.

OK, this isn’t a horrible piece, it’s just silly. All this prostrating at the holy church of the netbook just strikes the Macalope as the latest technology industry paean to the flavor of the day. Remember net PCs and how we were all going to be using thin clients and, jeez, Apple better make one of those soon or it’s DOOOOMED?

Netbooks are simply cheap little laptops. But someone decided to slap the name “netbook” on them and pretend they’re some kind of innovation other than the same forces that have been at work in computers since the ENIAC, driving size and cost down. At least the net PC represented a new paradigm (or a return to an old paradigm).

This is not a “revolution”. It’s simple evolution. Cheap, plasticy evolution.

Trackbacks Comments
  • Odineye:

    Back in the mid-90’s I had a tiny HP with a little grayscale screen and a thumb-size trackball on the lower left corner and no internal floppy (a PCMCIA floppy drive was “optional”. I think that they were referred to as “ultralight’s” or something similar back then.

    I think of it every time I come across an article referring to netbooks as a new idea or the next phase of notebook computers. Everything old is new again…

  • Peter:

    A NetBook IS a thin client.

  • Simple evolution. Cheap, plasticy evolution indeed.

    I think what the analysts are trying to say about Netbooks only really applies to Smartphones. Only they can’t go there too much while you-know-who has the lead. I mean, come on: no need for painting shiny, svelte, humane, and well designed dystopias now!

  • The Church of Apple:

    “Increased notebook demand could mean good news for Apple Inc., whose market share has been slipping, according to ChangeWave, partly because it does not offer a cheap option such as a netbook.”

    Well that is just illogical.
    It should mean “bad news” for Apple. 0_o

  • “You had me at tiny screen.”

    I’d settle for a used 12-inch iBook off eBay any day.

  • John:

    I have a netbook. I love it to death.

    What I use it for: emacs and xterm. I’ve got it nicely configured so that I get an almost entirely text-based interface, and I can pretend that I’m back in 1991.

    When I’m doing something like coding, that’s exactly what I need. It is the perfect task-oriented platform: I can carry around a tiny development workstation in my tiny bag.

    I really, really like small computers that get out of the way of the job that I’m doing. A tiny screen helps me focus on one thing at a time. Tiny keyboard? Hey, I’m a really good typist. I can compose code on a blackberry. Seriously. I’m *that* awesome.

    What it sucks for: reading email, surfing the web, and everything else.

    My netbook is set up to be a specialized tool to perform a single task that I do a lot. That’s why I love it. I don’t understand why anybody would even try to use it for anything else.

  • John:

    I would also like to add that while I have no problems with the tiny keyboard, the trackpad absolutely sucks. My thumb takes up about a quarter of the pad, and there is just no way for me to achieve any precision.

    emacs, terminal, a text-based app-switcher/launcher, and I never have to use the trackpad. I’d find it pretty unusable if I did.

  • > This is not a “revolution”. It’s simple evolution. Cheap, plasticy evolution.

    wrong macalope, me old dear. it’s not evolution, it’s devolution: not even mark mothersbaugh would claim those crappy little machines …

    you’re correct on the cheap & plasticy, however.

  • Glenn Fleishman:

    I had a wee little Sony Vaio back a few years ago (2002?) that I loved because with a replacement battery that nearly tripled its life, I could use it on planes, for extended periods, etc. I even…brought it with me to Macworld! Where I got no sneers, because it was before Apple had revamped its crummy, outdated laptop line-up.

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