An article in yesterday’s New York Times talks about the recent phenomenon of netbooks and the challenge they pose to the traditional PC manufacturers and outmoded ways of thinking about computers. For as long as personal computers have been around, the push has always been toward faster, more energy-consuming processors and larger amounts of hard drive space. Bucking this tread are netbooks, or much lighter laptops that employ much more energy efficient processors and trade the 250 GB hard drive for a more appropriate sub-100 GB flash-based hard drive. And while this device won’t cut it for energy-intensive processes like video editing, they are more than useful when it comes to creating documents, surfing the web at your local coffee shop and storing a few thousand photos and mp3s. Smaller companies like Asus, with their Eee PC line have taken advantage of this change in the wind of consumer desires. Their successes have left the larger Dell’s and H.P.’s of the world with big questions about their future. The issue the article raises is in regard to the limited payback when it comes to producing netbooks. With most netbooks are priced at less than $500, the larger players don’t want to get involved with such small profit margins. Regardless of how the big players see the situation now, with the developing world coming online faster and American and European consumers potentially moving away from the heavy, expensive, traditional laptops, they could be neglecting this niche market at their peril.

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