Posted by Bob Landstrom
The attention and interest in netbooks has been on the sharp increase over the past six months. A recent post in IT Business Edge makes the claim that netbook sales can be credited with the resiliency the PC market has had through the recent recession.
When one looks for the reasons why netbooks are appealing, it’s easy to notice their conveniently small size (many will fit into a large jacket pocket or a purse), the full QWERTY keyboard (as opposed to the thumb typing PDA form factors), and ease of connectivity through now nearly ubiquitous free WIFI. They’re a blogger’s dream, since they can be easily carried (when compared to a conventional laptop PC) and area always connected… aligning well with the kind of spontaneous editorializing in which bloggers delight.¬† Let’s not forget too that they are affordably priced (under $400 at this writing).
Detractors have their voice too, pointing out that as a computing device netbooks are simply less capable, citing the inability to carry large stores of data and workhorse applications as well as their having much smaller screens.¬† While both the advocates and detractors are correct in their assessments of these gadgets, there is more to this than just another product form factor serving a user preference niche.¬† I suggest that what we’re looking at is the next evolutionary step in a new usage model for the holistic computing platform, and one closely linked with the migration of enterprise storage and applications into the cloud (I’m referring here to cloud computing, including any xAAS paradigm you prefer to imagine when thinking about cloud computing).
A recent NetworkWorld article discusses an experience watching a group of 5th graders working on a class project using netbooks.¬† In terms of applications, they used browsers and basic word processing to collaborate and produce a report assignment.¬† Through the integrated wireless interface, they used the Internet to gather statistics, historical information, images, and even audio files to produce the report.
This I will suggest is an image of the future, of a typical enterprise workplace.¬† As data and applications move into the cloud, the demands on compute power in the end user’s device are lessened.¬† If you’re thinking that higher CPU power is nevertheless necessary because of the increase of video in enterprise applications you’re of course correct, but be aware that the next generation of netbooks (in late 2009) will be much more capable in video processing and display resolution that current day models.¬† The evolution of silicon density is going to take care of that issue organically.
Netbooks are the necessary enabler on the user-side to make cloud computing really take off. One can arguably say that it’s happening as we speak.