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Do netbooks make sense for corporate users?

Last year, word of Asus's forthcoming Eee PC and the One Laptop Per Child XO laptop had most techies pining for a mini notebook. More companies are making them now, but does that mean they are more than a novelty?

Last year, word of Asus's forthcoming Eee PC and the One Laptop Per Child XO laptop had most techies pining for a mini notebook. More companies are making them now, but does that mean they are more than a novelty?

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The consumer electronics catalogs that come across my threshold are chock full of mini notebook offerings. It seems like retailers are hoping that a sub $400 computer might be this Christmas's must-have gift. I get the attraction.

Computers are a product that people are very price sensitive toward. When an honest-to-goodness laptop computer can be had for less than a video game console, now that gets people's attention. Everyone likes getting a good deal, and a computer is still perceived as a big-ticket item.

These mini notebooks are light, but not too light. Ask most "full" laptop users what their biggest complaint is with their machine, and they probably will tell you that it's heavy. At three pounds or less, these netbooks seem like they would be good for road warriors and students alike, without sacrificing too much usability. The computer industry has been down the ultra-portable road before with the UMPC. The ultra-mobile PC didn't take off because they were too expensive and too inconvenient to carry and use. Larger than a PDA or smart phone but smaller than a laptop, these devices just didn't find a market. Try to explain exactly what a UMPC is to the average person, and they'll just visualize a smaller laptop. Netbooks have the advantage of being a form factor that everyone can grok.

Netbooks are robust enough to handle the basics. With competent, low power CPUs like those now being produced by Intel, these machines can browse the Web and edit Office documents without any trouble at all. If netbooks take off the way that their manufacturers hope, what will that mean for those of us who take care of computers professionally? If indeed 50 million netbooks are shipped in the next four years, any tech that deals directly with consumers had better be prepared to see a surge of these machines coming in for service. I don't expect these machines to make any significant headway in the enterprise market, though. What do you think?

23 comments
pinenut
pinenut

wireless? storage space? usb ports? i'm there

rmlounsbury
rmlounsbury

I'm actually making a business case to the VP about purchasing 4 netbooks to let users borrow when they attend the many trade shows our company participates in. They typically only need access to the web, email, and an office suite. Netbooks are suited perfectly for that. They are much cheaper to buy multiple units vs. the standard laptops we outfit our mobile users with.

art
art

A mobile, portable laptop should help to accomplish those things that most corporate users do, and nothing more. They are not for those whose buy notebooks INSTEAD of desktops, but for those of us with powerful desktops, they make perfect sense. We have loaner laptops for those traveling, and since we introduced the eee PC, we can't keep them in stock. All of our Dell Latitudes have become the last picked. Everybody wants to try them because they are light, but also end up liking them because of the great battery life the SSD give over hard drive notebooks. And non-tech users have no problem with Linux. Though they seem fine with the default Xandros, it is impossible to administer from an IT standpoint. I recommend installing Ubuntu eee, and giving no sudo privileges to the loaner or user accounts. We have the 1000 model. I install the OS on the 8 GB drive and mount /home on the 32 GB drive. Oh, and with vpnc, I can connect to the vpn and do my administratve stuff. Maybe I am in the minority among IT professionals, but I can't imagine carrying my desktop around. And is any notebook really a desktop equivalent?

reisen55
reisen55

Notebooks and laptops, traditionally, are for travel really. Mobile work. Many executives should have, in my opinion, an office computer and a travel computer IF travel eats up a substantial part of their life. If not, information tech can keep a supply of loaner laptops that can be tailored for the individual user. Laptops are generally getting tooo damn small anyway, I have seen some that are beautiful little things and a total waste if you are a touch typist. Please keep them to a sane size!!!!!

sidekick
sidekick

Boss: Order me one of these new-fangled Netbooks to replace my laptop. Me: They don't have the power of a regular laptop. I don't recommend it. Boss: I want something mor portable. It's nice and small. I will be able to work anywhere. Me: I think you will find it too slow. If you want something smaller, I can get you a 13" laptop more powerful than the one you have now. It will be light, small, and you will be able to do your work. Boss: Um, no. Just order me a netbook. Me: (shrug) OK. 4 weeks later.... Boss: Order me a laptop. This netbook is too slow.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Try to explain exactly what a UMPC is to the average person, and they'll just visualize a smaller laptop. Netbooks have the advantage of being a form-factor that everyone can grok." Apparently not. So far no one has explained one of these devices in terms that give me an image of anything other than a small laptop. If that's not what a netbook is, exactly what is it? I don't know enough about them to even vote in the poll.

williamjones
williamjones

I've been seeing a ton of netbooks for sale, and it seems like more models are on the way. The feature sets on these devices are attractive to the casual user, but I'm not sure they can satisfy enterprise users and the techs that take care of them. Have you had any experience rolling out netbooks to your corporate users? Anyone tried using them as thin clients? Are the prices on these machines too good for your company to pass up?

art
art

and weight. I have also found that the less sophisticated users don't even notice that it isn't XP, but Linux. We just tell them it's the "Laptop Operating System".

bws010101
bws010101

Have a desktop in the office and I used to carry a 17 inch "desktop replacement" for training and software sales demos. Got concerned about traveling with a machine loaded with real software. Now have a $350 Acer Aspire One with XP Home and almost nothing else loaded. Software I need to demo and present can be on a flash drive or copied from my desktop with GoToMyPC once I get where I'm going (and removed before going back to the airport.) Only complaint is that netbook screen resolutions are low(1024x600 vs. 1920x1200), but for presentations I carry a small Optoma projector and it drives it quite well at higher resolutions. Benefits are that the only exposure on the loss of the computer is $350 and the combination weighs less than my 17 inch laptop. If I can uses a clients projector so much the better.

themainframeisback
themainframeisback

so.. now you have a slightly used mini to give to your spouse, use in testdev, or sit in the back of your car to be stolen instead of your real notebook.

dwang00
dwang00

I think for power users these netbooks will not fit their needs but for workers who are "light users" or do a lot of remote work (rdp ,citrix, etc) netbooks would be just fine. Ultimately as cloud services become more viable, these machines while maybe underpowered when compared to notebooks, will become more popular with businesses. I will just add that there are those people that won't like the keyboard and screen size of these netbooks no matter how advantageous the portability and weight they offer

amurray
amurray

Just seen it too many times! The boss always knows better. I don't know how this logic works, but it seems to be widely accepted.

Levi Miller
Levi Miller

A the UMPC space tends to have unique form factors (See Panasonic U1, or the Samsung Q1 series). Netbooks are just scaled down notebooks aimed at the Internet centric user. If you have alot of web apps in your organizaion they make a lot of sense for mobile users. They also do a good job of running Citrix or RDP sessions. We use several for this purpose. I also keep one around for programming routers, switches, AP, etc during installs. A small two or three pound device fits the tool bag much better.

don.howard
don.howard

I recently acquired a Dell Mini 9. After using it a bit I find myself wishing for a couple of things: touch screen and mobile broad band. As I contemplated this I realized that what I really want is a larger, Windows or Linux based iPhone. I want the ability to run a regular OS for the application compatibility and the mobile connectivity so I'm not tied to finding wifi hot spots.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

For most of what my users do on the road I think a mini would be a great tool. A little email, a little web, a little word. That takes care of most of it. Maybe a powerpoint presentation too. What I don't understand is why they all come with Windows XP Home. The home version won't properly talk on the network (it's for HOME!) so that creates a problem back at the office. If they just were available with XP Pro then I'd be real happy with them.

mediamaniac
mediamaniac

As we progress further into what I believe is a clearly recessive economic climate and we realize and that outsourcing is NOT the way to go, I believe we'll see a need for companies to cut costs elsewhere. The netbooks on the whole will be one avenue where cost-cutting will not need to mean sacrifice. I see the market expanding for these little wonders while a more larger portable will come to be needed in less and less situations. The trend will encourage manufacturers to come up with more and more options and smaller and smaller chips with even more capacity. This is what we've seen traditionally.

EP_Dog
EP_Dog

We've been using them in the field to capture instrument readings rather successfully. Better to see a $400 UPMC bounce off the back of a quad into the swamp than a $1500 notebook

Levi Miller
Levi Miller

They do make good thin clients. I've deployed several for use in this capacity. As long as your users don't mind the smaller keyboard, and so far I've had no complaints, they are perfect for this role. The only downside versus true thin clients is if they are running a full version of windows they are vulnerable to viruses.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

Almost all the computers from the chain stores come with home preloaded. it helps keep the cost down. But for this machine the idea is that there portable not desktop replacements, or even primary machines. I wouldn't put them on a domain, and since there designed to be in the outside world most of there interaction with the network would be though VPN access, or terminal services or both.

sidekick
sidekick

Since Microsoft likes making so many versions of Vista, maybe they can develop a scaled back version of Windows 7 for netbooks. Because there just aren't enough versions of Windows.

debonairone
debonairone

Actually, I have a few colleagues who have already triple booted their netbooks, XP Pro, OSX and Windows 7... I'll be going the windows 7 mode myself in a few days... I am actually using a netbook to reply to this post and will be using it the rest of the day as my primary machine... I may have to add a full size keyboard, just because...

dwang00
dwang00

I believe the new head of the Windows division, Sinofsky had Windows 7 demoed on netbooks running even on 512MB...

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