It is an oddity in technology; generally the more powerful the technology the smaller the size and the price. Within the last year the netbook market has exploded even beyond the expectation of the manufacturers. Netbooks are smaller computers similar in construction as laptops. With screens that average around 10 inches by themselves they are not meant to be used for regular long term use such as in a office environment. However for travel or the mobile workforce the features included make them difficult to resist.
Netbooks are coming with built-in Wi-Fi, high capacity drives (some greater than 120GB); others with processors and memory that rival many people’s existing workplace computer. The netbook is not just the sub-compact of the laptop world but prices begin around $300 making them great alternative second workstations.
So, why could this be considered a desktop replacement? Computing power, technical features, tightening budgets and a growing mobile workforce are all well served by these sub-compact computers.
The average user could use these netbooks as the ‘office that follows’. As more and more organizations distribute their operations to the cloud, or tuck away sensitive data behind layers of VPNs, firewalls, and privileged access, the computing needs of yesterday aren’t as high in demand as they once were. In the antiquated days of yore people use to create and store mounds of data on their local computer. The silo effect common with users of this bye-gone era have been replaced by collaborative, redundant systems that are managed by an enterprise. Today, workflow designers use the commonality of the web to produce, display and modify work where the only requirement is a web browser. Now when we work together or produce original content it is because we compile common data using simple tools like a word processor, spreadsheet or email. None of these even in their highest utilization capacity require much computing power. The netbook is the natural evolution to tapping the creative mind, not the cubicled desk. Mobility is the new king.
There are some things the netbook is not well-suited. Due to their smaller screen sizes they are not comfortable to use for long periods of on-screen viewing. Instead larger full screen desk monitors can be used to supplement (or replace) screens while in an office. The keyboard and pointing device are small so replacing them with a full size keyboard and mouse complete the desktop. Processing power and performance are well suited for common work such as internet, email and office applications, however intensive photo and video editing still require a dedicated desktop machine for the best experience. Finally, as is always the case computer games still need the extra processing, video rendering and components only found in a desktop computer.
As this market grows it is very likely the ease, low cost and power of these netbooks will make them more viable not only for personal use but on an office desktop near you.