Netbooks are a category of small, lightweight, and inexpensive laptop computers.
At their inception in late 2007 — as smaller notebooks optimized for low weight and low cost — netbooks omitted certain features (e.g., the optical drive), featured smaller screens and keyboards, and offered reduced specification and computing power. Over the course of their evolution, netbooks have ranged in size from below 5" screen diagonal to 12". A typical weight is 1 kg (2-3 pounds). Often significantly less expensive than other laptops, by mid-2009, some wireless data carriers began to offer netbooks to users "free of charge", with an extended service contract purchase.
In the short period since their appearance, netbooks have grown in size and features, now converging with new smaller, lighter notebooks. By August 2009, when comparing a Dell netbook to a Dell notebook, CNET called netbooks "nothing more than smaller, cheaper notebooks," noting, "the specs are so similar that the average shopper would likely be confused as to why one is better than the other," and "the only conclusion is that there really is no distinction between the devices.". Netbooks now typically use Windows 7 Starter which Microsoft sells at a lower price but restricts to lower spec hardware.
An ASUS Eee PC 700, the first mass-produced netbook, used a 7 inch screen.
The origins of the netbook can be traced to the Network Computer (NC) concept of the mid-1990s. In March 1997, Apple Computer introduced the eMate 300 as a subcompact laptop that was a cross between the Apple Newton PDA and a conventional laptop computer. The eMate was discontinued, along with all other Newton devices, in 1998 with the return of Steve Jobs. More recently, Psion's now-discontinued netBook line, the OLPC XO-1 (initially called US$100 laptop) and the Palm Foleo were all small, portable, network-enabled computers. The generic use of the term "netbook", however, began in 2007 when Asus unveiled the ASUS Eee PC. Originally designed for emerging markets, the 23 × 17 cm (9.1 × 6.7 in) device weighed about 0.9 kg (2 lb) and featured a 7 in (18 cm) display, a keyboard approximately 85% the size of a normal keyboard, a solid-state drive and a custom version of Linux with a simplified user interface geared towards netbook use. Following the Eee PC, Everex launched its Linux-based CloudBook; Windows XP and Windows Vista models were also introduced and MSI released the Wind - others soon followed suit.
The OLPC project, known for its innovation in producing a durable, cost- and power-efficient netbook for developing countries, is regarded as one of the major factors that led top computer hardware manufacturers to begin creating low-cost netbooks for the consumer market. When the first ASUS Eee PC sold over 300,000 units in four months, companies such as Dell and Acer took note and began producing their own inexpensive netbooks. And while the OLPC XO-1 targets a different audience than do the other manufacturers' netbooks, it appears that OLPC is now facing the competition that was catalyzed by itself. Developing countries now have a large choice of vendors, from which they can choose which low-cost netbook they prefer.
Netbook market popularity within laptops in second half of 2008 based on the number of product clicks in the Laptop Subcategory per month by PriceGrabber,
By late 2008, netbooks had begun to take market share away from notebooks. In contrast to earlier, largely failed attempts to establish mini computers as a new class of mainstream personal computing devices built around comparatively expensive platforms requiring proprietary software applications or imposing severe usability limitations, the recent success of netbooks can also be attributed to the fact that PC technology has now matured enough to allow truly cost optimized implementations with enough performance to suit the needs of a majority of PC users. This is illustrated by the fact that typical system performance of a netbook is on the level of a mainstream PC in 2001, at around one quarter of the cost. While this performance level suffices for most of the user needs, it caused an increased interest in resource-efficient applications such as Google's Chrome, and forced Microsoft to extend availability of Windows XP in order to secure market share. It is estimated that almost thirty times more netbooks were sold in 2008 (11.4 million, 70% of which were in Europe) than in 2007 (400,000). For 2009, sales are expected to jump to 35 million, rising to an estimated 139 million in 2013. This trend is reinforced by the rise of web-based applications as well as mobile networking and, according to Wired Magazine, netbooks are evolving into "super-portable laptops for professionals". The ongoing recession is also helping with the growing sales of netbooks.
In Australia, the New South Wales Department of Education and Training, in partnership with Lenovo, are providing Year 9 (high school) students in government high schools with free Lenovo S10e netbooks in 2009 and Lenovo Mini 10 netbooks in 2010 preloaded with software including Microsoft Office and Adobe Systems' Creative Suite 4. This is provided under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Digital Education Revolution, or DER. The netbooks run Windows 7 Enterprise. They have unique tracking devices built-in that the police can use to track the device if it is lost or stolen. The NSW DET retains ownership of these netbooks until the student graduates from Year 12, when the student can keep it.
Greece is providing all 13 year old students (middle school, or gymnasium, freshmen) and their teachers with free netbooks in 2009 through the "Digital Classroom Initiative". Students are given one unique coupon each, with which they redeem the netbook of their choice, up to a €450 price ceiling, in participating shops throughout the country. These netbooks come bundled with localised versions of either Windows XP (or higher) or open source (e.g. Linux) operating systems, wired and wireless networking functionality, antivirus protection, preactivated parental controls, and an educational software package.
Microsoft and Intel have tried to "cement" netbooks in the low end of the market to protect mainstream notebook PC sales, because they get lower margins on low-cost models. The companies have limited the specifications of netbooks, but despite this original equipment manufacturers have announced higher-end netbooks models as of March 2009.
Ending in 2008 the report was that the typical netbook featured a 1.4 kg (3 lb) weight, a 9 in (23 cm) screen, wireless Internet connectivity, Linux or Windows XP, an Intel Atom processor, and a cost of less than $400 US. A mid-2009 newspaper article said that a typical netbook is 1.2 kg (2.6 lb), $300 US, and has a 10 in (25 cm) screen, 1 GB of random-access memory, a 160 GB hard disk drive, and a wireless transceiver for both home and a mobile network. Buyers drove the netbook market towards larger screens, which grew from 7 in (18 cm) in the original Asus Eee PC 700 to 12 in (30.5 cm) models in the summer of 2009.
In 1996 Psion started applying for trademarks for a line of netBook products that was later released in 1999. International trademarks were issued (including U.S. Trademark 75,215,401 and Community Trade Mark 000428250) but the models failed to gain popularity and are now discontinued (except for providing accessories, maintenance and support to existing users). Similar marks were recently rejected by the USPTO citing a "likelihood of confusion" under section 2(d).
Despite expert analysis that the mark is "probably generic", Psion Teklogix issued cease and desist letters on 23 December 2008. This was heavily criticised, prompting the formation of the "Save the Netbooks" grassroots campaign which worked to reverse the Google AdWords ban, cancel the trademark and encourage continued generic use of the term. While preparing a "Petition for Cancellation" of U.S. Trademark 75,215,401 they revealedthat Dell had submitted one day before on the basis of abandonment, genericness and fraud. They later revealed Psion's counter-suit against Intel, filed on 27 February 2009.
It was also revealed around the same time that Intel had also sued Psion Teklogix (US & Canada) and Psion (UK) in the Federal Court on similar grounds. In addition to seeking cancellation of the trademark, Intel sought an order enjoining Psion from asserting any trademark rights in the term "netbook", a declarative judgment regarding their use of the term, attorneys' fees, costs and disbursements and "such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper".
On June 2, 2009, Psion announced that the suit had been settled out of court. Psion's statement said that the company was withdrawing all of its trademark registrations for the term "Netbook" and that Psion agreed to "waive all its rights against third parties in respect of past, current or future use" of the term.
An MSI Wind netbook motherboard featuring the Intel Atom processor,
Netbooks typically have less powerful hardware than larger laptop computers. Some netbooks do not even have a conventional hard drive. Such netbooks use solid-state storage devices instead, as these require less power, are faster, lighter, and generally more shock-resistant, but with much less storage capacity (such as 32, 64, or 128GB compared to the 100GB to 2TB mechanical hard drives typical of many notebooks/laptop computers).
All netbooks on the market today support Wi-Fi wireless networking and many can be used on mobile telephone networks with data capability (for example, 3G). Mobile data plans are supplied under contract in the same way as mobile telephones. Some also include ethernet and/or modem ports, for broadband or dial-up Internet access, respectively.
Most netbooks, such as those from Asus, BenQ, Dell, Toshiba, Acer use the Intel Atom notebook processor (typically the N270 1.6 GHz but also available is the N280 at 1.66 GHz, replaced by the N450 series with graphics and memory controller integrated on the chip in early 2010 and running at 1.66 GHz), but the x86-compatible VIA Technologies C7 processor is also powering netbooks from many different manufacturers like HP and Samsung. VIA has also designed the Nano, a new x86-64-compatible architecture targeting lower priced, mobile applications like netbooks. Currently, one netbook uses the Nano; the Samsung NC20. Some very low cost netbooks use a System-on-a-chip Vortex86 processor meant for embedded systems, just to be "Windows compatible", but with very low performance. AMD plans to launch Netbook processors next year which should be included in the netbook Asus Eee PC 1015T and many others.
By definition netbooks accommodate processors with little processing power. For comparison a common Core 2 Duo T5600 at 1.83 GHz with 2 MB L2 cache used in low-end laptops has a PassMark score of about 1000 points. The following table shows benchmarks for most common netbook CPUs:
Manufacturer Name Frequency/GHz L2 cache/KB TDP/W Reference Average
Intel Atom N270 1.6 512 2.5 310
Intel Atom N450 1.66 512 5.5 320
Intel Atom N550 1.5 1024 8.5 563
AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 1.6 512 15 391
ARM Holdings designs and licenses microprocessor technology with relatively low power requirements and low cost which would constitute an ideal basis for netbooks. In particular, the recent ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore series of processor cores have been touted by ARM as an alternative platform to x86 for netbooks. These systems, when available, will be branded as smartbooks. Freescale, a manufacturer of ARM chips, has projected that, by 2012, half of all netbooks will run on ARM. In June 2009, Nvidia announced a dozen mobile Internet devices running ARM based Tegra SoC's, some of which will be netbooks.
Smartbooks will deliver features including always on, all-day battery life, 3G connectivity and GPS (all typically found in smartphones) in a laptop-style body with a screen size of 5 to 10 inches and a QWERTY keyboard. These systems do not run traditional x86 versions of Microsoft Windows, rather custom Linux operating systems (such as Google's Android or Chrome OS). Other barriers for the adoption of ARM are slowly being removed, for example Adobe is finally working on an implementation of the full version of Flash player for ARM.
Some netbooks use MIPS architecture-compatible processors. These include the Skytone Alpha 400, based on an Ingenic system on chip, and the Gdium netbooks, which uses the 64-bit Loongson processor capable of 400 million instructions per second. While these systems are relatively inexpensive, the processing power of current MIPS implementations usually compares unfavorably with those of x86-implementations as found in current netbooks. After the ARM version, Adobe is planning to release a version of the Adobe Flash Player (version 10.1) for the MIPS platform.
As of January 2009, over 90% (96% claimed by Microsoft as of February 2009) of netbooks in the United States are estimated to ship with Windows XP, which Microsoft was later estimated to sell ranging from US$15 to US$35 per netbook. Microsoft has extended the availability of Windows XP for ultra-low cost personal computers from June 2008 until June 2010. However, the discounted license costs only applies to reduced size and functionality netbooks, which effectively enables the production of low-cost PCs while preserving the higher margins of mainstream desktops and "value" laptopsas well as avoiding increased use of Linux installations on netbooks. Microsoft also has Windows 7 Starter for this class of devices. As of the first quarter of 2009 many netbook models previously announced with Windows XP for the US market were in fact being released with Windows 7 Starter instead, at the same price point previously announced for the Windows XP editions. However, unlike on regular desktops or notebooks that were sold with Vista but included a coupon for 7, users could not get a coupon for 7 Starter if they bought a netbook. Windows CE has also been used in netbook applications, due to its reduced feature design, that keeps with the design philosophy of netbooks.
Some netbooks have also been sold with Windows Vista (mostly prior to the release of Windows 7).
Many netbooks are by default unable to activate Windows in an enterprise environment using a Microsoft Key Management Service (KMS) as they lack System Locked Preinstallation (SLP) capability in their BIOS. The missing feature artificially segments enterprise customers from the lower end Netbook market; some hardware vendors offer an optional SLP-compliant BIOS to enterprise customers at additional cost.
Main article: List of Netbook Distributions
As of November 2009, customised Linux distributions are estimated to ship on 32% of netbooks worldwide, making it the second most popular operating system after Windows. As Linux systems normally install software from an Internet software repository, they do not need an optical drive to install software.
As of August 2010, major netbook manufacturers no longer install or support Linux in the United States. The reason for this change of stance is unclear, although it coincides with the availability of Windows 7 Starter and a strong marketing push for the adoption of this OS in the netbook market. However, companies targeting niche markets, such as System76 and ZaReason, continue to pre-install Linux on the devices they sell.
Netbooks have sparked the development of several Linux variants or completely new distributions, which are optimized for small screen use and the limited processing power of the Atom processors which typically power netbooks. Examples include Ubuntu Netbook Edition, EasyPeasy, Jolicloud and MeeGo. Both Jolicloud and MeeGo purport to be "social oriented" or social networking operating systems rather than traditional "office work production" operating systems.
Google's Android software platform, designed for mobile telephone handsets, has been demonstrated on an ASUS Eee PC and its Linux operating system contains policies for mobile internet devices including the original Asus Eee PC 701. ASUS has allocated engineers to develop an Android-based netbook. Freescale have also announced plans for a low-cost ARM-based netbook design, running Android. In May 2009 a contractor of Dell announced it is porting Adobe Flash Lite to Android for Dell netbooks. Acer announced Android netbooks to be available in Q3/2009.
In July 2009, a new project, Android-x86, was created to provide an open source solution for Android on the x86 platform, especially for netbooks.
Since the initial work on Android, Google announced a netbook specific operating system, Chrome OS, and future operating system development may be forked into Android for smartphones and similar handhelds, and Chrome OS for traditional keyboard driven machines like netbooks.
Google's upcoming Chrome OS is expected to be loaded on some netbooks; some even speculate that Google will launch a Google-branded netbook running the Chrome OS. If Google chooses to support the cost of the netbook by showing ads, it could be given away free.
Mac OS X and iOS
Mac OS X has been demonstrated running on various netbooks as a result of the OSx86 project, although this is in violation of the operating system's End User License Agreement.Apple has complained to sites hosting information on how to install OS X onto non-Apple hardware (including Wired and YouTube) who have reacted and removed content in response. One article nicknamed a netbook running OS X a "Hackintosh."
MeeGo is a Linux-based open source operating system project. It was first announced at Mobile World Congress in February 2010 by Intel and Nokia in a joint press conference, with the started aim is to merge the efforts of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo former projects into one new common project. It is programmed in C++ and comes from Linux OS Family. It was initially released on 26th May 2010. The latest stable release available is 1.1 released on 28th October 2010. Official website http://www.meego.com/
Netbooks have been demonstrated running other operating systems including FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Darwin.
The Cloud operating system attempts to capitalize on the minimalist aspect of netbooks. User space is limited to a browser application only, in effect making this operating system a browser.
A June 2009 NPD study found that 60% of netbook buyers never take their netbooks out of the house.
Another NPD study indicated that by September 2009 netbooks accounted for 20% of all portable computer shipments.
Special "children's" editions of netbooks have been released under Disney branding; their low cost (less at risk), lack of DVD player (less to break) and smaller keyboards (closer to children's hand sizes) are viewed as significant advantages for that target market. The principal objection to netbooks in this context is the lack of good video performance for streaming online video in current netbooks and a lack of speed with even simple games. Adults browsing for text content are less dependent on video content than small children who cannot read.
Netbooks in education
Netbooks are a growing trend in education for several reasons. The need to prepare children for 21st century lifestyles, combined with hundreds of new educational tools that can be found online, and a growing emphasis on student centered learning are three of the biggest contributing factors to the rising use of Netbook technology in schools. Dell were one of the first to mass produce a ruggedised netbook for the education sector, by having a rubber outlay, touchscreen and network activity light to show the teacher the netbook is online.
Netbooks offer several distinct advantages in educational settings. First, their compact size and weight make for an easy fit in student work areas. Similarly, the small size make Netbooks easier to transport than heavier, larger sized traditional laptops. In addition, prices ranging from $200–$600 dollars mean the affordability of Netbooks can be a relief to school budget makers. Despite the small size and price, Netbooks are fully capable of accomplishing most school-related tasks, including word processing, power point presentations, access to the Internet, multimedia playback, and photo management.
Uses in the classroom
Netbooks have the potential to change the way students and teachers interact, and have many practical applications in the classroom setting. One major implication of netbooks in schools is cloud computing. Cloud computing eliminates many of the technology related headaches that we have become accustomed to, including incompatibility between home computers and school computers, “data loss” due to computer crash, and printer failure. Virtually all Netbooks have wireless Internet connections, allowing complete access to free online applications and servers. Online conversations and projects can be completed when students are neither working at the same time, or place.
Netbooks are highly adaptable to students ranging from kindergarten through high school. Netbook activities include, but are not limited to:
updating class blogs with news or announcements
posting relevant class information on wikis
web 2.0 activities
online debates/class conversations
educational games/brain training exercises
creating or listening to educational podcasts
creation of presentations
access online textbooks and assessments
updating personal calendars and schedules
collaboration via cloud computing
Effects on student learning
The benefits of integrating netbooks in the classroom are many, but they are maximized when there is a 1-1 student to computer ratio. The benefits of a 1-1 laptop program are many. Studies have shown evidence that students with laptops do more, and higher quality writing, have access to more information, which improves data analysis skills, and that student centered learning is more easily accomplished. Student-centred learning, a growing trend in education recently, maintains a focus on increasing student motivation, cultivating critical thinking and problem solving, and fostering positive student collaboration. It would seem that Netbooks make student centered learning an easier reality to accomplish.
Costs and logistics
Netbooks come with their share of costs and management issues. Most schools invest in some type of security cart, where the computers can be securely stored when not in use, and plugged into to recharge all at once. Recharging 30 or more computers at one time has the potential to overload electrical circuits, especially in older buildings. Having an electrician inspect the building's electrical infrastructure is advisable. The wireless capability of Netbooks is one of its most attractive features, but only if the school has a bandwidth connection capable of supporting 30 wireless Internet connections. With the limited storage capabilities of Netbooks, an investment in a server, or external database with a greater capacity for storing information may be needed. If printing is a necessity, look for one that connects with Netbooks either wirelessly, or via USB cable. To maintain all this equipment, a successful Netbook program needs to have a highly trained and proficient IT service professional. Being familiar with the network, building infrastructure, and operating system of the computers are all absolutely necessary.
Training and staff development
In order to reap the full benefits of netbook technology, any teacher or staff member who will be using the netbooks will need to be trained how to perform basic maintenance, trouble shoot, navigate the mobile lab station, and function within the given operating system. Studies have shown that a lack of technical knowledge and support can lead to a reduction in technology usage in schools. Training in student management, copyright laws, and integrating digital media across the curriculum would also help to maximize the benefits of an integrated netbook program. Classroom management with a set of Netbooks can be a challenge. Boundaries need to be firmly established from day one if you want to maintain a productive learning environment. Students need to be trained in proper use and handling of computers. Specific guidelines as to appropriate use, and digital citizenship also need to be defined in an official school technology policy statement.
Main article: Smartbook
A smartbook is a concept of a mobile device that falls between smartphones and netbooks, delivering features typically found in smartphones (always on, all-day battery life, 3G connectivity, GPS) in a slightly larger device with a full keyboard. Smartbooks will tend to be designed to work with online applications. Smartbooks are likely to be sold initially through mobile network operators, like mobile phones are today, with a wireless data plan.