The Netbook Revolution
More and more students these days use laptops to take notes in class, or bring them around campus to browse the internet and do homework. Thanks to the proliferation of WiFi hotspots, students can perform work from more places than ever before. But laptops’ dominance in students’ lives may soon be over, thanks to a new category of ultra-portable laptops known as netbooks.
Netbooks first began with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, which intended to build small, cheap laptops for students in 3rd-world countries. However, before the first netbook could be released, in 2007 computer company Asus launched their own EeePC. Featuring a 7-inch display and smaller keyboard than conventional laptops, the EeePC quickly gained a large following, and other computer manufacturers began to launch their own netbooks, including the MSI Wind and Dell Mini series. Today, the typical netbook has between a 5 to 13 inch screen, and only weighs 2 to 3 pounds. Many run various versions of Linux, rather than Windows.
The growth of netbooks may have important implications for students. As they are even lighter and more portable than laptops, they are even easier to stuff into a backpack. Some more expensive models run Windows XP which allows them to have the same functionality as laptops. Also, most get great battery life, allowing them to survive several classes without needing to be recharged. Their “grab-and-go” nature may encourage increased usage for note-taking in class, and their smaller footprint makes it much easier for students to fit them on their desks (I don’t want to think about trying to use a normal laptop in the Forum!). In addition, many of them are priced as low as $300. Their prices rarely exceed $600.
However, as with nearly anything in life, there are downsides to netbooks. Their small keyboards make it difficult for some students to type. Also, many models don’t feature optical drives, and have smaller solid-state drivers instead of larger hard-disc drives. This would keep many people from being able to use netbooks as their primary computers.
It is still too early to say if netbooks will begin to overtake laptops on college campuses, but there will certainly be more showing up in students’ backpacks across the country due to their incredible portability. However, their small size and lack of storage space will probably be a turn-off to many potential buyers. Only time will tell.