Between a Phone and a PC

By Reuters  |  Print this article Print

The new netbook ultra mini PCs appeal to customers looking for light, portable and powerful PCs. But without a broadband connection these netbook PCs fall flat.

Think of these PCs as an economical fit between pocket-sized smartphones -- which surf the web, and manage contacts and information on a business-card sized screen -- and full blown laptop computers. Dell's base model Inspiron 9 comes with 512 megabytes of RAM memory, a 4-gigabytes solid state drive, and built-in wireless network card.

Last year, Taiwan's Asustek Computer introduced the $399 Eee PC which flew off store shelves from Asia to North America.

Dell's netbook, which is powered by Linux operating system software (or Windows XP, plus a built-in webcam, for $50 more), is as light as Apple's MacBook Air, but smaller by about 4 inches in screen size. Apple's Air also boasts an 80-gigabyte hard drive, and costs $1,300 more.

"It (this category) could potentially be bigger than the existing laptop market," Enderle said. "If you believe in the cloud computing model of the future, this is the kind of product that leads up to that future."

Cloud computing refers to services centrally stored remotely on networks rather than on your device, which has to access the information "in the cloud" via the Web.

According to PC Magazine analyst Cisco Cheng, the Dell PC's ability to do so much with so few on-board resources comes with another caveat -- like most PCs, it might crash.

"The combination of the Atom processor and 1 Gigabyte of memory gives you more than enough power to accomplish any general-purpose task, whether (you are) running MS Office 2007, encoding a video, running iTunes, watching YouTube, or playing online poker. Just don't do all of these things simultaneously," he said in an online review.

And makers of these computers must not forget the ever-present threat that impulse buyers might find that the iPhone or iPod Touch soothes their craving for a low-cost, web-enabled computer, even thought its screen is only 3-inches, and it lacks a full keyboard.

(Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved


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