I’ve committed to using new technology at Demo next week to open a new topic on my blog called the “netbook notebook.” The word “notebook” in this title doesn’t refer to the device, but rather a collection of thoughts as I put new technology through it’s paces under what I consider to be pretty demanding circumstances.
Rolling into this new category, I have some pretty strong opinions.
First off: any device with a battery life of less than four hours isn’t just a non-starter, it’s a ding against the manufacturer, since long battery life is one of the most important features all users ask for.
Secondly, a netbook that weighs more than four pounds isn’t a netbook, in my view it’s a fishing weight for catching multiple bottom fish at depths greater than 50 fathoms.
Also, Running cloud-based apps on any netbook I test will be a given. Therefore, I will weight the rating I assign to any netbook on its ability to stay attached to an 802.11 wireless signal filled with students, professionals, or other types of users logged on to YouTube as I try to write. The apps I will rely on for my big netbook experiment primarily include Google Docs and Spread Sheets, and Zoho’s offerings
Reliability and durability are other factors I will weight in my evaluations of netbooks. If this new category is going to blaze inroads, manufacturers need to realize that netbooks will most likely be viewed as “mission critical” devices that are deployed throughout many organizations. So, I believe durability will be as important as usability.
Keyboards and cursor control devices are other factors I want to examine critically in any netbook I test. I feel strongly that one of the biggest mistakes any manufacturer can make with a netbook is releasing any product that has an overly cramped keyboard or a track pad that’s positioned in a way to inadvertently send a cursor into orbit.
Finally, I believe technologies, that produce crisp displays that are as easy to read for 40 year old adults adjusting to their first set of reading glasses as they are for eagle-eyed youngsters are also important.
Bonus points will be awarded to any netbook I test with an audio subsystem that allows me to enjoy my ITunes catalog on butt-numbing transcontinental flights from Tedium to Apathy.
I may be an idealist, but with more than 25 years experience in portable computing, I’m also extremely realistic.
So here’s my call to action for portable makers: ”Reach out and hit me with your netbook technology and I’ll give it my close, unbiased attention.
I don’t think netbooks will be the Second Coming, but I do believe they have enormous transformational potential. Let me know what factors you think will be critical in this emerging category. Let’s begin an important conversation that gives users the power they need to shape a new class of computers.—Jim Forbes on 02/27/2009