Netbooks: Unhappy Returns?

As anyone who peruses computer stores knows, netbooks are proliferating at unprecedented rates. Consumers are taken the portability of the half-pint PCs (the typical reaction is “they’re so cute,” one salesman derisively shared with me), not to mention the price tags – often under $300. In my own completely unscientific survey, 30% or more of the PCs on display in traditional PC retail outlets are now flavors of netbooks.

The data support the anecdotal evidence. Worldwide netbooks shipments are expected snare a 17.2% share of the overall notebook PC market in 2009, according to a new research report.

But not so fast. The salespersons I spoke with noted lots of problems with notebooks. The return rates run as high as 40%, one said, citing consumer complaints about the lack of functionality. Computer Weekly editors recently took on the negative side to the phenomenon as well.

Netbooks serve a function – namely surfing and simple word processing. But they are not computers in the full-fledged sense. The idea, as noted by Computer Weekly, that business are starting to implement netbooks is a scary proposition for those who value quality and performance over price.

Apple’s Next Bite?

Great piece in Slate on the rise of the netbook craze and its pros and cons for the PC industry.

The reward, especially as companies like Apple reportedly consider a move into the loss-cost, stripped-down PC market, is greater market share and a renewed interest in buying computers at a time when the market could absolutely use some good news.

The risk, however, is the Forrest Gump-like devices (in that their presence outstrips their capability), will suck all the innovation out of the market, leaving little in the way of profits for future R&D.