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.

Dean

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