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Opinion: Why Netbooks Are Doomed

Either The Netbook Goes Or...

My wife is a good girl. She goes to church, dresses conservatively, and monitors what comes out of our kids’ mouths like a Communist press censor. So the first inkling I had that the death of netbooks draws nigh was when she appeared in my office doorway one night, face and neck aglow like she’d just finished a tanning session in Hell. Her fists were clenched. Her lips moved, but her jaws didn’t.


“Get...” she whispered with absolute clarity, “ @##$%ING notebook...that @##$%ING WORKS!


I thought about correcting her with an “Um, honey, it’s actually a netbook, not a notebook,” but 13 years of marital bliss have taught me when to remain silent and motionless.

This is our second netbook. We keep it on the ottoman in the living room. I’m going to withhold vendor names to protect the semi-innocent, mostly because I don’t want a flawed product category to impugn the reputation of otherwise good companies. Suffice it to say that between our units, other netbooks I’ve examined, and many discussions with various netbook-related vendors, both on and off the record, I feel like I’ve got a fair grasp on the current state of these devices, even without my wife’s sage input.


What was my wife’s beef? Well, in this particular instance it was the location of one or two keys. It seems that she would perpetually get 90+ percent through filling out a Web form or Web-mail message when she would accidentally hit these stray keys and erase every thing she’d just done, forcing her to start over. I’d remapped the most likely offenders, but this seemed to make no difference. Perhaps it was a problem specific to Firefox, which we had to run because Internet Explorer refused to work on this machine.


Mind you, this is the same woman who, upon getting her first netbook, declared, “It’s so cute! I could put it in my purse—I love it!”


I agreed with her. In fact, I agreed so much that I immediately commandeered it and took the little system out for pizza that night. Between the two of us, I did most of the eating, but the netbook demonstrated a very clear display and excellent battery life. This was the first of several dates between the netbook and me, and I confess my wife was getting a bit jealous. Alas, the first blush of interest was quickly tempered by reality.