TechCrunch slams netbooks

TechCrunch's own takedown of netbooks is actually a much-needed counter to the insane hype surrounding these mobile mediocrities, but it misses the point and lards the piece with baffling errors.

"A typical Netbook has a 7 inch screen."

Au contraire! Most netbooks have 9" or 10" displays. The 7" netbooks of yore are no longer easy to find. The only hot seven-incher in the house is Raon's Everun Note, but it's really a UMPC, with specs that far exceed those of netbooks.

"Some make do with as little as 256 MB."

Few netbooks come with less than 1GB of memory, with 512MB configurations reduced to $250 Black Friday duty. To find 256MB, we again have to look back to old junk you can't even buy anymore: even the ur-netbook, the Asus EeePC 2G, had half a gig.

"Netbooks use Intel Celeron, Intel Atom, or Via Nano CPU"

A netbook with Via's Nano CPU? Now you're jutht being thilly.

"The iPhone or iPod Touch, with a tiny 3.5 inch screen, has a vastly better browsing experience."

This refers to a real netbook problem–600-line displays–but TechCrunch overplays it. As great as the iPhone's cut of Safari is, we have to get real about its usefulness for work. A 480-pixel display can't offer the plain utility of the 1024 horizontal pixels found on the average netbook.

"Any normal adult can’t type fast on it ... it isn’t much better than a Blackberry-type mobile keyboard"

Oh, please. As far as this can be taken seriously at all, it should suffice to say that I type just fine on netbooks–and I have blunt hobbit-fingers that can barely navigate a smartphone. "Normal adult" indeed!

"Even the lower end XP and Linux, with normal computing is a heavy chore for these machines."

I'm a performance whore, with a 4GB MacBook Pro and a gaming PC with a $500 video card. Even so, only a couple of netbooks slowed me down for the kind of basic tasks they're good for. Moreover, the real culprit for their problems was cheap flash storage with poor write speeds: the answer is to buy one with a hard drive, or to avoid the cheaper EeePCs.

After saying the netbook's keyboard is too small, TechCrunch again pitches its keyboard-free touchscreen tablet concept again: "That’s a device people will want." It's a fantastic proposal, but the notion that it's an "answer" to the "problem" of netbooks–which are selling in the millions–isn't fully baked. 

An abiding belief that little tablets are the future is something that Intel and Microsoft have been throwing cash at for years and years: HPCs, UMPCs and MIDs have been serving imaginary consumers for at least a decade. There is a fundamental problem with these Star Trek props: none of them ever hits a sweet spot, and that probably means that there isn't one. I can juuuuust imagine Apple succeeding with a bigger iPhone-like tablet, but it could do so only because of the foundations already built, not because it's a fundamentally appetizing idea.

Here are three things that will really improve netbooks, right now: 1. Fix the chipset power consumption problems so we really do get a full day on a 6-cell charge, 2. Give us more than 600 horizontal lines, and 3: Cellular modems as standard in the U.S.

Three Reasons Why Netbooks Just Aren’t Good Enough [TechCrunch]

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23 Responses to TechCrunch slams netbooks

  1. Rob Beschizza says:

    Emowabi, that’s not a “stereotypical gay affectation,” it’s a famous cartoon character!

  2. dimmer says:

    OT: whatever happened to Lisp (the programming language) anyway? I only remember hating it more than C or COmplete BOLlox.

  3. xdmag says:

    Complaining about all the hype surrounding netbooks, then offering the iPhone as an alternative? Ah, the irony.

  4. paulj says:

    @Dimmer: Lisp is alive and well, with several commercial and open source implementations. See:

  5. inorman says:

    I’ve replaced almost all of my computing with a netbook. I also have an iPod Touch and frankly, the “annoyance factor” when browsing with mobile safari is far greater than using a netbook. A netbook has the power to perform almost all computing needs. The price is right, the size is right, the power is right, I see more and more people jumping on the netbook bandwagon in the future.

  6. emowabi says:

    So, I talked to my partner this morning, and had him read the post. He saw the phrase the same way everyone else has. So, I apparently did mis-interpret Rob’s intent. Sorry for the ripple.

  7. Tommy says:

    What’s with folks like that? If you want a workhorse, get a full-size laptop. If you want something really small and light because you’re heading to Norway for three weeks and want to review your photos and dump them to a portable hard-drive and keep a diary and you don’t want to be out a ton of cash if it gets broken, lost, or stolen by Customs, then a netbook fits the bill.

    How hard is it to understand that different tools meet different needs?

  8. emowabi says:

    “Now you’re jutht being thilly.”? What’s with the gratuitous stereotypical gay affectation? Was that really necessary?

  9. musicalwoods says:

    I’m jumping on the band wagon after I see ARM and Ubuntu’s netbook rendition. I’m really excited about an all-day/couple of days netbook that runs a good linux distro.

  10. Halloween Jack says:

    I’ve got an iPhone, and if Wapedia (and a certain popular prose erotica site that’s been reformatted for smartphones) didn’t exist, I’d never use the web browser. I’ve tried the EEE in a couple of different sizes, and for what they’re designed for, they work fine.

  11. Samizdata says:

    I used to happily use a 12.5″ laptop day in and day out. The only reason I went to a large 15″ widescreen was that the 12.5″‘s motherboard warped due to heat, and, although still usable, is completely useless for mobile activities.

    I guess my expectations for a netbook are a little more rational than some. Something for quick net access and/or a little network analysis like CDP mapping.

  12. johnny_action says:

    I agree with the article. I got my Acer Aspire One last weekend and it rocks. Girls think its cute and I think its useful.

    Performance problems? Puh-lease… I dual boot with ubuntu netbook remix and xp home. In ubuntu I enabled compiz and it renders pretty darn good. Nothing like typing in blog posts or reading blogs to virtual compiz raindrops falling on the screen creating ripples.

    It makes a very handy, oh I need to dash something off before bedtime computer and a relaxing on the couch computer.

  13. Charlie Stross says:

    Got an iMac on my desk for getting real work done. Got a Macbook for when I’m on a long road trip and know I’m going to need to do a few days work (and also? I lost my saving throw vs. Shiny). But I also have an Eee 1000.

    A netbook that’s tiresome to use for more than an hour is nevertheless a real general-purpose computer — something that no smartphone can compete with as an email/web/office document editing terminal. (And it’s got a real keyboard, too, not a stupid touch-screen.) Sure the Macbook is nicer to work on, but for short trips when I need access to a “real computer” for maybe an hour a day the Eee wins on portability (not to mention replacement price if you leave it on the train).

  14. pork musket says:

    I came here to predict an over-sensitive (or butthurt, if you will) remark about the lisp thing, but it appears I’m too late.

  15. Anonymous says:

    @emowabi: I read that as Sylvester the Cat, but to each their own kink.

    On topic: Like the Intel article below this one, just follow the money. Intel wants netbooks to fail because it’s a low-margin race-to-zero market. Arrington wants his tablet to win because he’ll make money if it does, and $250 netbooks are destroying his market even before he can pander to it.

    Consumers outvote Arrington no matter how often he tweets or how much his blog’s ad space is worth. If his tablet comes out and takes over the low-end market, great – that’s because he made a better device at a better price and we all benefit. FUDding netbooks only makes him look out of touch.

  16. monopole says:

    …is actually a much-needed counter to the insane hype surrounding these mobile mediocrities…

    And proposing an iPhone instead is so much better, because there is no hype or mediocrity associated with the iPhone!

    Mark my words, the microsecond Jobs unveils the iNetbook it will be hailed as his greatest invention evar!!!

  17. tim says:

    #20 – AJ

    the wave of the future since the EO Personal Communicator.

    Uh, excuse me but the Active Book was there first. And it ran with a whopping *1* (count’em) Mb of RAM and *1* Mb of ROM. Into which we fitted a good application suite, the screen buffer, a full implementation of Smalltalk and a fax filing system. It was powered by an ARM 2as running at (IIRC) 4MHz and was snappy, easy to use, and totally lovely. Bit heavy though since the hardware added up to a bout the same size as one of those not very nice windows tablet-PC thingies. Batteries mostly – ni-cads in those days. The EO had lots more RAM, a 20MHz ‘hobbit’ cpu (blech) and was slow as a blocked drain. Prettier hardware though.
    There was also the Momenta, which was x86 and also ran a Smalltalk system.

  18. Eliot says:

    Don’t worry. The webtablet TechCrunch is designing with the collective wisdom of blog commenters will solve all of these problems.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I thought the lispy comment was a Warner Bros. cartoony kind of thing.

  20. aj says:

    Keyboardless tablets have been the wave of the future since the EO Personal Communicator. There is no reason to expect that that this will change, since people (shocker) like to type on keyboards.

  21. wrybread says:

    Normally I just read and quietly enjoy, but I have to say it: that was a fantabulous write up, lisp and all.

  22. Ernunnos says:

    I’ll give up my netbook when your iPhone has a USB interface and can drive a low-latency MIDI/audio interface. The netbook barely has enough grunt to do it, but good enough is good enough.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Only guys with gratuitous stereotypical gay affectations think that gratuitous stereotypical gay affectations are directed at them.

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