What is a Netbook computer?

Last time, while describing the Lenovo IdeaPad S10, I offered my opinion that Netbook computers will drastically change the computing scene. A quick look at the best selling computers at Amazon.com shows many Netbooks (as of October 15, 2008 the top three computers were all Netbooks). In writing a follow-up posting, I realized that an introduction to Netbooks might be needed. So, here I try to explain just what Netbooks are and how they differ from the millions of laptop computers that existed previously.

A Netbook is a new type of laptop computer, defined by size, price, horsepower, and operating system. They are small, cheap, under-powered, and run either an old or unfamiliar operating system.

Netbooks run either Windows XP Home edition or Linux (not only is Linux unfamiliar to many, but the versions of Linux on Netbooks are not the mainstream popular distributions). They do not run XP Professional, Vista, or OS X. Microsoft arbitrarily restricts Netbooks from running the Professional Edition of Windows XP. Likewise, Apple arbitrarily restricts OS X to Apple hardware and it has never played in the low-end realm that Netbooks occupy.* Vista requires too much horsepower to run well on a Netbook. HP has been the only company to offer Vista on a Netbook. The price, however, was so high that it’s debatable whether such a machine qualifies as a Netbook.
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