When I bought my netbook (an HP Mini) I got exactly what I was looking for; a low cost, fast-booting machine that could handle word-processing, browsing, and light image-editing. That's what I wanted and that's what I got.
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Apparently, though, that's not what most netbook owners are looking for. A recent NPD study showed that 60% of netbook owners were disappointed with their machines, and that they had expected something with the functionality of a notebook. That's obviously a ridiculous standard to hold a netbook to, but it's still a sign of trouble for the new devices.
This Fall the first CULV notebooks are going to take the tech world by force. CULV stands for 'consumer ultra-low voltage'. Notebooks with CULV chips have extremely long-lasting batteries and much thinner profiles than traditional notebooks. The small size and great battery life of a CULV put it in direct competition with netbooks, and the fact that CULV netbooks have 12 to 13” screens and much faster processors could nudge them ahead.
Netbooks will always have the price advantage, but that might not be enough. CULVs cost around $600-1000, which is just cheap enough to let CULVs compete very well with high-end netbooks.
Here's what I think is going to happen. The cheapest netbooks, anything $400 and under, are going to be fine. Nothing can compete with them for cost, and there will always be a market for tiny computers that can boot up fast and take a beating without breaking (thanks, solid state drives!). The high end netbooks are going to have a problem though. Anything over $600 is going to start edging into CULV territory. Very few customers are going to choose to spend as much or more money on a smaller machine that lacks an optical drive and has a slower processor.
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Most netbook buyers bought their machines expecting to get notebook performance out of them. Those people are going to be the ones who buy CULVs this Fall instead of netbooks. Those of us who actually wanted netbooks are going to stick with them. When you need to be able to compute while standing up in a train or walking around on campus, they're the only choice out there.