One of the things I am most addicted to in technology at the moment are netbooks. In my previous post on this topic in February I outlined Twynham School’s move towards mobile computing for students and I plan to update you on our latest thoughts this week. One thing I thought might be useful is to have a quick look at the state of the market now. This is the most rapidly changing technology market I know and having followed it heavily since August we have already seen considerable change.
But what specifically are the changes and are they beneficial? Well my first observation on netbooks is the enormous fall in price we have witnessed. When I was in New York in August I tried to get my hands on what was then the hot property in the market. This was then then newly arrived Asus 1000H. What was interesting is the price on Amazon at the time of launch was $650! Within 10 days the price was $550 and a quick check on Amazon this morning showed the price is now just $350, an almost 50% drop over 6 months.
What else has changed? Well perhaps the other most noticeable feature has been the increasing screen size. In August the move to a 10 inch screen by Asus was seen as a definite game changer with most netbooks on the market being 8-9 inches. The drive to bigger screens is clear with Asus seemingly planning to ditch the 8-9 inch arena and concentrate on 10 inch models whilst almost every netbook manufacturer has a model in this size now. In fact in our work in education we see students loving the look and size of the smaller machines until they have spend a few hours working on them.
The compromise in keyboard size and screen makes them good at occasional short use but for me the screen size will rise further to 12 inch as norm. In fact we have seen this with the arrival of two new machines since the turn of the year. Both Dell with their Inspiron Mini 12 and Samsung with their big brother Samsung NC20 promise to blur the line between netbook and small laptop to the extreme.
For one of my colleagues, Chris Mckinley, the move to bigger models is a step to far and if he had the choice he would purchase a 13.3 inch laptop every time over a 12 inch netbook. His view is they have lost their USP as they blur the line and most importantly lack the power in terms of processing and graphic computing that a low end laptop like a Dell Vostro has. For me the netbook remains a winner and I believe the next 18 months will see a sharp increase in power and capability with further significant price falls. By this time I think we will see a sufficiently powerful machine priced at $200 (and frustratingly £200) which will threaten a genuine revolution in education.