Netbooks May Face Fatal Identity Crisis in 2010



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If there is a crisis of confidence in the product and an identity crisis as to what makes a netbook, the fault must be squarely be put down to the manufacturers - and most especially ASUS, who almost single-handedly created the niche and market.

Their original 'netbook'. the EeePC 701 4G hit a sweet-spot of size, price and capabilities - capabilities that even ASUS seemed blithely unaware of, leaving it to the user-base to make the device the success it became. Forget just basic web-browsing and email - with the right tweaks, users were discovering the full, lite abilities of this sub-computer. And in doing so, were writing screenplays, creating programs, doing photo manipulation and a multitude of other projects.

But then. ASUS seemed to lose their way - producing (almost weekly, it seemed) yet another incremental variation of the device - confusing the consumer market, watering down the product and eventually losing the marketshare that they once entirely owned to other manufacturers as they came onboard.

Some, like Acer, tried to remain with the original concept - low price, small and capable while others, like HP and Toshiba, initially went for the more expensive 'business' market. Suddenly a simple, small, inexpensive  device was transforming into something larger and decidely often not simple, small and inexpensive - instaed becoming an underpowered notebook with iffy graphics. And the identity crisis had begun.

Perhaps the fault lies with the manufacturers listening to the consumer. Rather than, as ASUS did, presenting us with a device as a finished product, they've taken to listening to what consumers 'want' in a netbook - so we get a device conceived by committee and priced by manufacturers who don't want to cut into their dwindling 'real' computer market.

If the Apple 'tablet' ever does become more than etherware, Apple will do what they always do. Present the product as done and say, "If you don't like it, your're wrong" - and Macoytles will clamber over each other to get it and wax poetical about it, regardless of shortcomings.

Pity other manufacturers don't have such chutzpah or fan base.

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