Should your company buy netbooks?

The latest next big thing in desktop computing is the netbook. Should your company go out and buy netbooks to replace the desktop and laptop computers that your folks are currently using? No . . . not unless you’re able to look beyond the low price and are willing to place it in the role it plays in the new IT ecosystem. Netbooks are low in price but are also slim in resources – no CD/DVD drives, small displays, low storage capacity, limited amounts of processing power and minimal RAM. Here’s a Wired article which gives a good history of the netbook. Read it first before you make a decision to purchase netbooks with the goal to save tons of capital on these new fangled and cheap computers.

Netbooks are part of a larger system and culture that you will need to have in place in order to reap the benefits. If you aren’t willing to build and support the new IT ecosystem model that netbooks are made for, then this initiative will result in failure. Your goal of saving money will backfire and end up costing you more than you bargained for. Users will be left unsatisfied and the IT department will be left with the stigma of yet another failure-to-deliver.

Netbooks are made for a whole new world of computing. Web browsing, apps in the cloud, pictures stored on web servers, streaming media – music and video, mobile access through wireless connections, connections to people through social networks and SKYPE. I’m writing this on a full-sized laptop computer. For the most part this computer isn’t utilized much more than a netbook would be. It’s just bigger, heavier and consumes more battery power. Lot’s of unused capacity though. It sits in our dining room and  is powered up first thing in the morning along with the TV. It runs all day and sometimes becomes more important than TV. Nothing good on cable? Let’s watch YouTube! Check email. Send messages to friends on Facebook. Chat with family members in other parts of the world via live-chat and skype. This is the environment that netbooks are good for – a web centric appliance. A consumer oriented tech-gadget.

If your company still purchases and installs full blown copies of MS Office, stores corporate data on local computer hard-drives, uses MS Outlook for calendar and email, equips your field staff with ten pound laptop computers and argues with the IT staff over their budget requests needed to keep this all working then netbooks aren’t for you.



Microsoft to open stores – what the …?

Word on the interwebs is that Microsoft plans to open it’s own chain of retail stores. Is this what it will look like? The MS fake retail store. Other than Xboxes and Zunes what else could MS sell in these stores? The Apple Store model works because Apple’s product lineup is slim and end to end.  On the consumer PC side of things other people make the hardware that MS’s software runs on. So how is that going to work? Will there be featured ‘partners’ vying for the coveted spot in the stores? MS has lots of products in their catalogue – items that you probably have not have even heard of. Maybe this will be an opportunity to see these products in action. That’s one reason the Apple stores are successful – opportunities to demo products before you buy. Apple also has a strangle hold on street prices. No matter where you go – the Apple store, big box retailers or local dealers, the price is the same. PC’s and MS products are priced competitively and just walking across the street can save you $50.

 MS wants the consumer market  but they don’t know how to get there. It’s not part of their DNA. And MS is not part of consumers DNA – too many choices are available in the market and consumers will seek them out. At best, MS products – Windows, Office etc. – are tolerated by consumers. Apple on the other hand has a strong loyal fan base that will buy their products no matter what other options are available.

There are lots of reasons why this won’t work. MS has demonstrated with their past actions and activities that there are some things they just don’t do well. And this could just be another one. Most likely it will be a big waste of time and may last two years before it shuts down with a clearance sale.

I could go on and on, but I won’t – there’s lots of others doing that…