According to Michael Dell, a netbook is a dream purchase - until it's about 36 hours old. "If you take a user who's used to a 14- or 15-inch notebook and you say 'Here's a 10-inch netbook,' they're gonna say 'Hey, this is so fantastic. It's so cute. It's so light. I love it,'" Dell told Silicon Valley's tech-obsessed Churchill …
I call bull
perhaps I'm abnormal but I love my netbook. I've got an acer aspire one running ubuntu nbr and it's awesome. I get daily SVN builds of chromium, a stable and secure platform and it works great with just 512mb of RAM. I use it for development and media (my only gripe is flash but that's always been shit) and it doesn't turn my testicles into roast potatoes when I have it on my lap (unlike my dual core Athlon X2 machine with 2GB of RAM and an nvidia card).
Maybe Michael Dells users are stuck with crippled versions of windows or something.. I don't know but I <3 netbooks. I truly do.
this just in, the sky is blue, water is wet
He is so just talking crap because he knows in this segment the asian makers will eat him alive on the thin margins. I am writing this right now on my Samsung NC-10 which I have had for six monthes and probably like overall more than any other laptop I have ever owned including a few $2000 ones. The big laptop makers have grown fat and lazy and it took Intel doing an end around on them to give the customer what they wanted. I looked down on the product category too until I got one for my lady and now use more than she does. Gaming not really (but is a great scrabble machine I hear) but sitting in your underwear watching merkin football and want to look up who has more felonies yes sir we have a winner!.
'Give me my 15-inch screen back'
Er....no. 36 hours later, I was still thinking 'Thank God I don't have that heavy 15 inch laptop in my lap when all I wanted to do was to hit facebook and stream some music from a station in Australia.
Nice try, Mr Dell. But I haven't looked back since buying one.
I used to have a Palm Pilot. Loved that thing, did everything I wanted (at the time). Only bug bears were the lack of connectivity and the bulky adaptor.
If I could afford a netbook (it's not the netbook per se, but the obscene data charges) then I am sure I'd get a lot of use out of it. But I wouldn't expect a lot from it; it would just be "simple access on the go".
If, of course, I needed more juice I'd just remote into a large box and get it to do the work.
If, of course, the ****ing firewall would ****ing let me in without the mandatory ****ing **** VPN client. I'd use a secure VPN client, just not that ****ing sack of ****. >:-(
The big problem is that netbooks are bin gsold as being "big laptop in a small box". They're not. They're what they are. They need to be Linux on an ARM chip....yeah, and pigs will be airborne.
Then again...with all the smartphones coming out...perhaps I'll pick up one that isn't locked down (i.e. not an iPhone). Gotta tinker...need to tinker (which is why my little Sansa e280 will now lunch your iPod Nano...IMHO at any rate).
I'm with Michael on this one
At least I am when it comes to Dell kit. No inbuilt 3G, poor performance, and not exactly the prettiest chunks of hardware on the market.
There is the issue of general useability with netbooks but they do have their place and if they are designed to meet their niche then all is well. I just feel that Dell netbooks aren't.
My happiness lasted 36 minutes.
But I did but one of the "crippled" eeePCs.
Cade, you're seriously jaded.
I think Dell is as useless as the next guy, but Michael's right - this is *exactly* the response most people have to a netbook if they're used to a normal lappy.
Netbooks are nice as a second "check the internet quick" machine, or for some specialist applications, or maybe as a primary machine if you're on an extreme budget, but for many applications, a second-hand laptop is probably a better bet.
Screen too small
So no one's ever going to use that stupid little iPhone thingy.
"But as a replacement machine for an experienced user, it's not what we'd recommend. It's not a good experience, and we don't see users very happy with those."
No shit asshat. We all know this but its great for the basics. No one ever expected to play a game on it....I hope
In other words, "people are stupid".
maybe DELL netbooks.
Could be because your dell 'netbooks' are just not up to the competition, eh Michael?
I don't know, only ever tried a dell once for 30 mins and when I found out about the battery life, crossed it off my list. Seemed OK enough but I suspect the battery life and the fact that the SD card sticks out like a sore thumb when inserted makes it less popular.
My Eee is fine. Runs windoze, runs linux just fine, tons of battery life. Well built. Properly set up and upgraded it's more than a match for my heavier laptops for everyday work.
A 9-11 inch laptop is just what it is, a compromise of computing power, real scren estate and keyboard ergonmics for size and portability. It is NOT meant for compute intensive work but...
Consider that a netbook has the equivalent computing power of a PIII laptop of yesteryear, with FASTER RAM and in most cases, a FASTER and LARGER HDD.
You just need to know how to set it up right and for that, you have the internet.
"Michael Dell: Netbooks go sour after 36 hours"
I'm pretty sure he's thinking of milk, not netbooks.
Horses for courses
One would hope that Dell don't go around swapping people's hardware at will. The conventional approach would be that individuals identify which features are important to them and then make a considered choice from the products available. If size and weight are important but a big screen is not, a netbook might be a good choice, depending what applications are needed. If you have to carry the thing around when you are walking or cycling, a big screen is probaly not high on your list. Maybe Dell like to just pressurise their customers to buy whatever is the latest gimmick, instead of what they actually need.
I'm OK with that...
and will follow Michael "Apple should be liquidated and the proceeds used to pay back the investors" Dell's advice and not buy a Dell netbook...
After all, my Asus Eee does all I expect of it...
He should do his homework
For twenty years there was exactly one laptop in our house - mine. But after netbooks were introduced there were suddenly 5; everyone had one except for the 6 year old, and I can only put off his complaining by telling him that he can't have one until he can read. No one has complained after 36 hours that they are unusable. Nor after 3600 hours. They are all happy, because they know what they bought.
I could do that, give us a job...
And he's the CEO of Dell? Does he really not get it, or is he just trying to convince himself that netbooks are just a flash in the pan and he can soon resume selling higher powered offerings for more profit, which for basic tasks, we simply don't need?
It's obvious that netbooks really hit a sweet spot. Granted, the screen res is an inconvenience and I'm guessing that the manufacturers are sticking mostly to the 600 pix restriction to restrict cannibalization of the notebook market. Most things in life are a compromise and the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages here.
I love my little netbook. I mostly keep it hibernated so it 'boots' quicker, and it's usually downstairs and ready to hand for a quick Google or to check the email. It's recently been promoted to my iPod sync machine too. Natch, for work I use a 'real' computer, but then don't we all?
Paris, because she and Mr Dell might just have been separated at birth.
Feeds and speeds vs. actual needs.
I am sure that there are trends to be extracted by staring at a bar graph or a spreadsheet filled with statistics. I think the truth is simpler than any CEO or Wall Street maven truly wants to admit: netbooks were the ultimate symbol that the PC has become commoditized. The Wintel platform and it's various hangers-on (Lintel, etc. etc.) have moved past just generic commoditization and into that dreaded next phase. That phase is the one where the item in question (computers, in this case,) is so ubiquitous that you now buy a device for a specific purpose rather than one generic device to solve all problems.
For a company like Dell, (or any major box pusher) this is an absolute disaster. It’s a return to having to compete with actual innovation. We no longer simply buy our computers based on what is the fastest, or even the cheapest. We buy the computer that suits our particular needs best. If you don’t find something in Dell’s line-up that meets your particular desires, you just shop around, confident that eventually you will find it. Like any good capitalist, Dell, Acer, HP, and every other box-shifter under the sun is fighting this for all they are worth. (ASUS, you and your eee-pc. Traitors! You caused such a ruckus.) Once they have to fight this battle on innovation, economies of scale are lost. Suddenly you don’t crank out 10M of some generic unit, offering a total of maybe 6 notebooks and 10 PCs for a given season. Now you have to broaden your range to offer more models, at fewer units produced per model. Not only that, but you need to offer variability in their specification, or you’ll lose out to some other competitor who decided they would try to make money giving people equipment they actually want to buy.
It’s a slow game, and big corporations like Dell, HP, Acer etc. are good at sending a tentacle to lash out at anyone who gets out of line. Still, it’s inevitable, as evidenced by, well, everything humans have made…ever.
You don’t buy a radio because it has the broadest range of channels, or the highest gain antenna, do you? No, you buy a radio based on it’s look, or number of storable channels, or maybe because it includes an iPod dock, or MP3 player or some other feature. I maintain that for the vast majority of users and of usage scenarios, we hit that point of "good enough" somewhere around the P-III 1Ghz. There will always be a call for "faster stronger smarter better" in certain niches, but I don’t need my e-book reader or remote desktop box to be stupid powerful. My HTPC needs to sit in the corner and not consume watts when I don’t want it to. My "morning newspaper" El-Reg reading laptop needs to only be capable of turning on, opening El Reg, and allowing me to read the articles, and post long boring comments.
Of the 15 or so computers I own, my home VDI setup, (sandboxing is good,) and my games rig have any oomph. (And the reality is the house server is configured for muchos big-time power saving anyways, since even hosting 4 VMs, it’s idle most of the day.) The rest of these systems could cheerfully meet every need I could possibly have for them with a P-III 1Ghz, or an Atom. I bought myself a new gaming rig in January. My next 4 planned systems, (including my replacement home VDI server,) are going to be Atoms. (Server gets a dual core.) I’ll be replacing 4 existing (but marginally flakey) systems with brand new gear that consumes a tenth the wattage of my previous systems for less than what it would have cost me to buy a new home server 5 years ago. Even for an avid consumer of technology like myself, I have reached the point where I spend more money every year on disks than I do on the systems that feed them. And I’m perfectly happy with the performance of all of that gear.
If you’re Michael Dell, that’s got to be ****ing terrifying.
"New product not the same as old" shocker
AFAICT the only people who have ever even suggested netbooks are a suitable replacement for a regular laptop are Microsoft, when trying to push XP onto netbooks, rather than surrender the market to Linux.
I bow to these insights
Oh Michael, you're the smartness, 4real!
Late night postings.
I humbly beg the pedants to avoid drawing and quartering me for my above posting. I realise I used it's instead of its. (I am aware that I should properly proof-read my comments more thoroughly before posting, lest I be savaged by my fellow commenttards.) I offer in my defence only the fact that I am posting comments at 1:30am.
And yes...it's (proper usage has occurred!) bedtime for me. Have an excellent Wednesday everyone.
I'll give him a "C"
He's half right - yes, a netbook makes zero sense as the first/only machine, but as a secondary machine or one for those low-powered needs (web browsing, mail, TwitBook, etc) it's a reasonable choice. Well at least it was until some "genius" decided that we all needed 10 and 11 inch screens along with a corresponding massive price hike!
Where I disagree is that a proper (ie more expensive) laptop is a better choice. My netbook is small enough to be a 'throw it in the rucksack in case I need it" item - whereas a laptop in the same circumstances would only be going if I was very sure I needed it - the weight and bulk being the #1 factors. Similarly, if you try and use a full laptop on a bus/train then more often than not you ain't going to be popular with your fellow passengers. The smaller netbook is a lot more 'friendly' to those around.
Last point is the battery life - the low powered cpu = more battery life. So I'd argue for the 'road warrior' that's the third key aspect (behind size and weight).
Sure I suspect that a lot of netbooks were bought by the iPhone-toting, latte-glugging fashionista's as the latest 'thing', in which case they'll be filling cupboards in the 36 hours that Dell says. On the other hand, there's probably quite a few folks who found that a small, light and long running gizmo is ideal for their needs. My little Acer is certainly powerful enough for web browsing/shopping, email, IM, Twitter and office type work (Open Office in my case).
Of course, Dell aren't alone in hating the low margins on the netbooks, which is why the prices have been shooting up since they were launched. And I can quite understand why Dell would prefer the more expensive laptops - more revenue!
Oh, btw Mr Dell, in my case having a netbook means I use my laptop a heck of a lot less...
What an eijeet.......
.......the man clearly has a vested interest in selling products that make him more coin.
I'm very happy with my netbook years down the line. And they're being rapidly adopted now by less techy students at my university, and the experience seems to be a happy, satisfying cash saving experience for them.
If there are folk out there terribly unhappy with their netbook I'd suggest they were sold the wrong product by a salesman/website, and the shortcomings weren't made clear. And that would be the fault of the folk in charge of the website/sales team; people like Mr Dell.
Reminds me of the 'rush to the bottom' statement that Sony came out with; similar tosh said for similar reasons.
IMNECTHO, Mr. Dell's right in one aspect.
Mr. Dell sez: "We see a fair amount of customer not really being that satisfied with the smaller screen and the lower performance - unless it's like a secondary machine"
Netbooks ARE secondary machines. We have several here, and they do what they do quite admirably. But they are NOT our primary, go-to machines when we are sitting down to do serious computing ... even when we're on the road, we carry laptops with modern values of screen, CPU, RAM, disk, I/O and etc. Obviously, your mileage may vary ...
 Whatever the fuck that is ... can anyone define "serious computing"? I thought not ...
Pretty good article...
....but Dell's wrong. My wife adores her Acer Aspire D150 far more than she ever did her 15.4" screen laptop. At least part of that is manufacturer insistence on shipping those large machines with crappy WXGA res screens that really aren't THAT much more usable at 1280x800 than a 10" netbook screen at 1024x600. Yes, you can buy a few machines with higher res screens, but they're thinner on the ground and the price premium is way higher than justified.
This attitude is a real shame, as Dell (until recently) made the best netbook of them all - the Dell Mini 9. They're like gold dust on the second hand market now.
I was fortunate enough to get a 3G-enabled one and absolutely love it - 6 months more than Michael Dell thinks I should - and my colleagues are equally attached to theirs.
I guess he must have tried one of his own company's products, where the Dell supplied, Dell branded wireless configuration window (non resizeable) is too big for the screen of the Dell produced netbook, so you can't see the buttons to click to set up your WiFi connection...
Than made me wish for a 15" screen.
Stating the bleedin' obvious
"We see a fair amount of customer not really being that satisfied with the smaller screen and the lower performance - unless it's like a secondary machine or it's a very first machine and the expectations are low," he said. "But as a replacement machine for an experienced user, it's not what we'd recommend. It's not a good experience, and we don't see users very happy with those."
I was initially impressed by my bicycle purchase but slowly disappointed that it wasn't a wise choice as a replacement for my Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. It may be okay around town but when I'm trying to emulate Jenson Button on the M3 it really cannot deliver. Last week I was over-taken by a milk float - I really should have bought one of those instead.
My last holiday "a night in Paris" was a complete disappointment. I was just left in a hotel room by myself. Not what I was expecting at all. Next time I'm booking "a night in Jordon".
Netbooks are brilliant
But they aren't primary machines - I use them in server rooms, around the home and on the train.
My issue isn't the screen though, it's the keyboard, just fractionally too small. The psion5 was SO compact that the keyboard was a good compromise, the netbook needs a bag, so I kind of expect to be able to type.
Maybe a fold out extension of some sort?
or should I just grab one of these? http://www.gadgets.co.uk/item/USBRK/USB-Flexible-Portable-Rubber-Keyboard.html
Exactly my reaction
This was exactly my reaction to my new netbook. Initially great, but rapidly realising that the screen was too restrictive. Not too small, but needed more pixels.
I heard a rumour that 1024x600 resolution was a restriction imposed by Intel on machines with Atom processors. Anyone know if this is true?
I still find plenty of applications for my netbook, and I can work-around the resolution to some extent by disabling unnecessary toolbars and using full-screen modes more, but it's a shame that the potential of this form-factor isn't fully realised.
"...But as a general purpose notebook, it's not really a great solution do screen size and performance"
Well yes. But everyone knows this already, no?
I have one of those little NC10 things.. It's great (apart from the WiFi copping out every hour - grrrr). Very small and light. Very handy. But nobody would suggest it can run protein-folding algorithms very quickly or run an air traffic control system.
Of course, if you want to run MS office then nobody in their right mind would try this on anything less than a 10GHz, 1TB machine (writing a letter REALLY does require such power - apparently).
Dell's Netbook isn't selling then
He's trying to draw people away from them to the larger laptops, which tells you his netbook isn't doing well.
I don't miss the hulking great big bag I had to carry for a laptop and I won't be switching back.
Horses for Courses
When my 17" Dell Dimension went back to IT for fixing, I had to use my Acer Aspire One for 2 weeks.
it's 8.9", 1.5GB RAM Windows 7 and Office 2007, so I thought I'd giv it a bit of a thrashing.
Plugged into external Keyboard, Mouse and Monitor, in the office, and as it is on the road, I was massively surprised.
Yeah, it ran our of steam when you have more than 2 Office 2007 Apps open (what PC doesn't???), but other than that it was fantastice, and my backed loved me on long trips lugging my laptop case around.
These little machines were never a replacement for a full sized laptop, they are what they say they are Netbooks. Surf the web, look at emails, and a bit of office work.
I think Mr Dell is a little hacked off as the profit margins are lower than on the beast machines, that's all.
Netbooks are crap... Unless it is a Dell...
The problem is not the products, but people mis-understanding what they are - netbook != notebook. If you want something light to fit in your/your missus' handbag to browse t'internet, check emails and type the odd document on then a netbook is ok, but if you want to watch pr0n in HD then a notebook is what you want!
Agree with him but
Nobody (except maybe Ballmner) says
"Users don't find the iPhone a great experience compared to the 15" screens of laptops".
I agree. I don't know anyone who uses a netbook as their primary PC. They're basic content devouring machines that are cheap enough to be taken to the beach. (insert Eee girl picture).
Michael Dell can STFU. Writing this on a netbook right now, I can tell him that they are fine for general use, and people like me buy them because we do a lot of travelling and want something small enough to carry easily, but large enough that we can type properly. A 10" netbook is perfect for that.
36 hours? errr no
I've had my PC World brand MSI Wind over a year now and certainly haven't been disappointed with it. In fact most of the people I know who have equivalent models love the small screen and diminutive size of the laptops. Carrying these small and light machines around is so much easier than a 14 or 15 in Dell clunker.
90%+ of people who buy netbooks buy them as second machines. This way I can have a decent desktop (not a crappy desktop replacement) for whatever I consider "decent" and carry a lightweight laptop whenever I want to go. All within the budget.
There is simply no way I am buying anything above 10 inch (proper classic 4:3 diagonal, not widescreen if possible). Same for most consumers who have a netbook. If they are going to buy something it will be a desktop to supplement it, not a laptop.
In fact, the sole thing to prevent this for businesses is the software license costs. If a business is set up for a non-microsoft or mixed environment it is definitely worth doing. In a microsoft one, the duplicate licenses for office, servers and the extra exchange cals are going to kill you.
"Performance is kind of coming back"?
It never went away! My Linux boxes (and netbook) are as snappy as ever. :-)
All this hype about Windows 7 being so much faster than Vista is all Marketing Moonshine of course. The benchmarks I've seen say it's fundamentally the same as Vista: Much of the perceived speed-up is due to MS tweaking the UI to be more responsive. Not very surprising because It's still much the same beast as Vista under the covers.
I've had my EEE for nearly two years now, and it's still a joy to use. Surely anyone buying a netbook (or the Reg term that I prefer: laptot) has given some thought to the fact that the screen is smaller?
It's not the screen, Michael
I bought a Mini 9 from Michael. Wonderful little machine. At least, it was when I put OSX on it. Unfortunately, the SSD broke. Twice. So you see, it's not the screen that is keeping me from mobile bliss. It's the fact I can't start the cu*ting b*stard.
A title should not be required
Can Michael provide links to some studies that back up his assertions? Or is this marketing bullshit?
I've now been using a Samsung NC-10 as my computer since the beginning of this year, and it's proved to be a fine replacement for the 17" laptop it replaced. I use it for the usual stuff - web browsing, email - but also for development (C, C++ and Java). Admittedly I don't use Windows, so perhaps my desktop is more suitable for the Samsung's screen size. If so, then the problem would be crappy configuration of Windows, not the netbooks themselves.
"Laptops --- you'll like it for a while, so portable and stuff, but then your battery runs out and so forth, and you'll crave your old desktop soon enough."
The man's right
Size matters. It doesn't just matter - it's crucial.
Let's face it, the major step is to go from NOT carrying a portable around, to carrying one. After that minor issues like does it weigh 2kg or 3kg or is it a few cm. longer/wider/fatter don't make that much difference: you're still carrying one more thing. Once you start carrying, it makes sense to pack in as many features as possible - with the hope that you can then dump one of the other toys you habitually lug around. So far that hasn't happened as a lappy takes sooooooooo long to boot up and is liable to catch fire if you have it powered up while in it's padded bag.. Get it down to sub-second (like my PDA with the O/S in firmware and nice small, pert applications) and you're on the right road. Have a micro-power mode for phoning, and MP3-ing and you're most of the way there.
This thing about screen size is also what makes me laugh, and cry, about "smart" phones. Look! the new WHIZZY 500, with it's massive 3 inch screen!!! Huh? Has someone redefined the inch to be about 15cm? Until phones and all the other trinkets get away fromt he "massive", postage stamp sized peep-holes and get decent sized screens, (and we're talking 12++ inches here,) and get keyboards that normal sized fingers can use, they're butterly useless for watching movies, surfing or emailing. But then they'd be laptops, wouldn't they.
Other side othe coin
I once had a 'full size' laptop years ago but not for long because it was annoying to use as it was too heavy, difficult to carry around, viewing angle of the LCD screen was like 90% of the cheap end of the scale laptops - bloody atrocious because unless you get the screen dead square on, you're looking at a dark image where the contrast has gone skewif and the colours have gone psychadelic, and even when you're square on you get noticable shading where the top of the screen is darker than the bottom.
Sure the expensive 'full size' laptops have the nice viewing angle LCD screens but they cost a fortune so you wouldn't want to be lugging it around too much in case you break it, defeating the point of a portable computer.
But for me, netbooks (or legtops as they can appropriately be called) are what I've wanted for years because they're very lightweight meaning I can easily hold it in one hand and type on it with the other, carry it around without feeling like I'm in the lead transport business, very rugged because of the SSD (although some arsewit netbook manufacturers are dumping that for HDDs, idiots) so I don't need to treat the unit with any special care when lugging it around and carrying it in my bike panniers (a HDD would probably have died months and months ago) and best of all you can afford to buy a new one each year when the features increase but the size/weight doesn't because they're so damn cheap for what they offer!
I actually find myself mostly agreeing with Dell on this. As a primary machine the typical netbook isn't great. It's something that wonderful to carry, somewhat less wonderful to actually use. The other problem is performance. Most people complain their computer is "slow", and think "I've got a slow computer" they cope, now give them a machine that actually IS SLOW ... you get the idea.
Now Netbooks can be fantastic, if you're carrying it more than using it, then it's great (and that sounds weird, but think about someone who want email on the move - a Netbook is a heck of a lot nicer to use than a Blackberry). Or as some kind of "tool" (single function) where the application is fine on the smaller display and there isn't too much mousing/typing. Or as your "other laptop".
Now where I think Dell does get it wrong is the specific example of the Latitude 2100 - if you think about some of the examples above you can see "slightly rugged" is a real advantage, I don't need to be a schoolboy (or schoolgirl) to appreciate that. I don't really understand why most Netbooks are "glossy scratch magnets" when the whole idea is to "throw it into a bag"! Perhaps Dell would do better looking at how Netbooks can be useful and design them for these needs (more like the 2100) than wonder why people bought the "sexy, glossy" ones and were disappointed.
Here's my ideal Netbook:
Guts like the Acer Ferrari One (with the upgrade to 4GB). Space for an internal 3G modem. Keyboard from the afore mentioned Ferrari One. Outside like the Latitude 2100. Ability to run Linux (as well as Windows, inc Win7). Ethernet port (this is very specific to what I do). Convertible Tablet option. Long life battery slice (I can live with it being less "thin & sexy"). I'd say no more than £500. Schoolchildren need not apply.
XP not Vista!
A netbook is the only way left for Joe public to get something running XP. And for very many purposes, a netbook running XP beats a state-of-the-art full notebook running Vista hands-down. Plus, it's hugely cheaper, probably half the weight, and costs so little that you don't live in fear of it getting smashed or stolen.
Heaven for me would be a netbook with a decent resolution screen, say 1400x900. Why aren't they on the market? I believe that Microsoft's monopoly is to blame - if it's got a decent screen, they won't sell an XP license for use on it.
Is that a 15" widescreen?
It seems like every laptop maker is out on this crazy "widescreen laptop" thing at the moment that means that if one was to buy a laptop with a 15" screen the actual visible height is no better than on a netbook with a regular proportion 10" screen so you end up needing a huge screen just to get enough scroll height that you can have more than your browser's toolbars visible...
Obviously Reg readers have much more ...
...experience selling netbooks to the general public than Michael Dell. Or possibly NOT.
Anyone who reads or has heard of El Reg probably has a clue when it comes to buying their personal IT hardware. On the other hand, I would imagine a lot of netbooks are being returned just for the reasons he says by people who are buying on the basis of price or just to see what the fuss is about.