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10 years ago, if you had a computer, it was most likely a desktop. Notebooks – then called Laptops – were pretty expensive, but were also beginning to show that they could start to replace a desktop model. Fast forward to today: Event the Notebooks have been threatened as of late by Netbooks and smartphones. It leaves you to the question: What should your next purchase be?
My first Laptop was a Zenith Data Systems 386 laptop. It wasn’t cheap – and I even got it used. It had a very small hard drive, a trackball on the side connecting to the serial port and a monochrome monitor. It ran Windows 3.0, which was really great. I was able to run the Word processor and Lotus 1-2-3. I was happy.
The machine was about twice the size of my current laptop and most likely twice the weight. The battery life was almost nothing – maybe 5 minutes. Still, I thought at the time “This is the future of computing.”
I was right – kinda.
Notebooks have been getting bigger and better since the term became mainstream. Functionality these days can match a notebook to a desktop. Desktops advantage was simply it was able to be customized, whereas notebooks could only get a new hard drive, memory, DVD-RW and possibly a graphics chip (depending on what brand you had). You could add items through a PC Card slot like Firewire or extra storage. If you wanted a second hard drive or an extra battery, you would have to forgo the CD drive. With a desktop, that’s not a problem.
Today’s notebook is a great item, but now it’s being encroached by the Netbook market since the announcement of the OLPC in 2007. Being able to access the internet and email doesn’t take a lot of process. Trying to use a Notebook on an airplane is impossible. The Netbook can slip into a coat pocket, turns on almost instantly and lets you have your content on the go anywhere, including music, movies and documents.
Netbooks are small, easy to carry and able to work for hours at a time. With Windows XP or Linux installed, you can find many applications to work with it. Best part – some of those applications are free. You can post to your blog, facebook, twitter and many other websites anywhere you have a 3G, Edge or WiFi signals.
Then there is the smartphone: Easy to use, easy to carry. Limited screen, keyboard and no mouse. No DVD drive, no USB connections, but access to your data and a lot of good programs to use. A great companion to your computer – whatever the computer is.
Netbooks, Smartphones and Notebooks also have the ability to use 3G with 7 MB service in some areas; but to use it on a Notebook, you have to buy a card. Todays’ Netbook can come with a 2 year contract from a wireless carrier, with the Netbook being received for a discounted price. Some smartphones have no choice – they must come with some sort of connection contract.
Netbooks and Smartphones have limited functionality. The ATOM, ARM or NVIDIA processors inside – along with the memory – can do a lot. If you start loading items like photoshop, video or audio editing software, even games, you might find it’s not going to cut it. That is where a notebook or desktop will step in. Then again, the same could be said about the laptop of yesterday.
The Netbook market has been growing. It’s taken 22.2% of sales in the last year according to DisplaySearch’s latest “Quarterly PC Shipment and Forecast Report.” That jumped up 40% from last year. Once you get faster processors – even dual core processors like the newer ATOM duals, that are starting to come out , faster and higher capacity hard drives and powerful memory with a slightly larger screen, you might have people ditching their Notebooks for the compactness of the Netbook.
G-screen has put out a dual-screen Notebook. Open the cover and the screens butterfly out like the old IBM Thinkpad keyboards did. Imagine if you put that technology into a Netbook? 7” screen instantly becomes 14”. If you can have one slide up and one slide across, the desktop real estate will not be an issue.
As for Smartphones, imagine if someone made a Netbook or tablet in where you would insert the smartphone. The phone would be the main processor and the tablet would just be a large carrying case with ability to make the screen larger. Added battery will put less drain on the device which can sit in the car at times to recharge while you use the smartphone. Think about how much more work you would get out of one device. Mount a connection appliance to the dash of your car, one to the side of your bed, another in your favorite work area. Slide in the smartphone and access all your content – Even with a 3G connection to the cloud, you data doesn’t even need to be on the phone.
In the next 5 years, the desktop will be item in the corner of the room that the kids get on to play old Sponge Bob games on CD. You might connect up the TV and watch movies and TV shows from it – possibly even games. It could even be a server that hosts and backs up your Notebooks, Netbooks and Smartphones data. Only real die-hards will have a machine to work on. Even the “Notebook” of today might become obsolete.
For now, I can get a more powerful Desktop than a Notebook, Netbook or Smartphone. The recent desktop purchase has made 3 other computers in my house obsolete, which is nice. I wonder what I’ll be using in 5 years? A Desktop, or a workstation with a Smartphone or Netbook dock?