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Impact - A Blog by INM

Small is In: Where is the 'small netbooks' trend coming from?

February 16, 2009 by Tanya McGinnity

Smaller netbooks are preferred by the ‘digital nomads’ in our society. Best seen in the backpacks of travelers, wayfarers and students who appreciate the freedom and flexibility that these mini-computers provide, today’s tribe is traveling more and has an ‘always-on’ mentality. So much of our user experience is on-the-go computing in which we are empowered to find and share information as we find it, rather than wait until we are at our desk to blog, tweet or add photos to our profile. In this mobile age, it holds true that for many of us, the first thing we ask is ‘Is there Wi-Fi available?”. We appreciate instant access to this information and feel lost without a connection.

The cost of netbooks is quite low and provides an easy point of entry for students and those who are budget conscious. This can be attributed to the cost of existing hardware, components and monitors now being much cheaper than they were in the golden age of personal computing.

Back in 1987, Go Corporation worked to create software for mobile computers and PDA’s (personal digital assistants) and had developed robust technologies for pen-based computing systems and created a tablet computer for AT&T’s EO Personal Communicator. Its products never did take off and they closed their doors back in 1994.

The Apple Newton was released back in 1993, only to be killed off in 1998 due to among other reasons, its size, poor product marketing and problematic bugs. The product still has quite an impression on Macheads as Wired magazine noted in a past article that “Fans still take their Newtons to Jobs’ keynote speeches at Macworld and wave them in the air in silent protest.”

Looking back on the personal computing devices of the past, innovations at that time often were top down creations and failed because they were too expensive due to requiring a larger investment, both in time and resources. Today, small computing devices are benefiting from a more agile, software-design style of development in which products are designed to be smaller and lighter to see if they will be purchased.

The Kindle is a perfect example of this quick-iteration philosophy as it’s easy to consider that this product is likely to take on a different use or format several years from now. Re purposing an existing solution so it meets an entirely new need is something that speaks very well in today’s economic times.