Netbooks and the end of the Laptop Decade

If you are in the computer industry, it is not uncommon that friends or family often consult you to recommend a computer or a laptop. There are several things that make answering it difficult, especially for an average consumer who may be buying their first laptop with hard earned money:

  • A. good $1000 laptop does not offer value-for-money to someone wanting to use gmail and Internet
  • B. It will be obsolete in an year and newer software will run slower

When I first heard about the features of OLPC - (One Laptop Per Child) especially its battery life and networking features etc., my reaction was that those features should be part of any average consumer computer - trying to sell it to kids made it look like a scam. If I had 400$ to spend for a child's education, there are a dozen better ways to spend it. A computer would be near the bottom of that list.

Since then a number of commercial small low-cost, efficient and Internet oriented laptops have appeared in the market. These are also called Netbooks (v/s Notebook)

Number of companies making them suggests that these are becoming popular. While the hardware used is pretty awesome, the software stack has to catchup. The personal computer software industry has a long way to go before it is ready for the average consumer.

Especially focus has to be on making software run faster, simpler and more usable. Bloatware should be avoided and software should be able to run with limited resources. System should be able to boot in a couple of seconds and response time for any click should be strictly less than 100 milliseconds (except where the network latency comes into picture).

It seem to be a trend that the common software, (such as browsers, mail clients, games and operating systems) get bloated and slower with each revision. The Gnome desktop my OpenSolaris Indiana takes almost as much time to load up as the system takes to boot up. There is probably one drastic solution to it, that software developers should use old systems which were made 5 or 6 years ago. That way, regressions in performance become visible as soon as they are introduced.

Comments:

Netbooks > 10" and desktops are indispensable. Laptops are a source of pain but useful if you do developer work or run games or do scientific research and you do not have space. Laptops are also indispensable. Personally I prefer desktops and netbooks, but for space/portability/capability reason I prefer the laptop.

Posted by Vasileios Anagnostopoulos on November 15, 2008 at 05:34 PM PST #

Since processor speeds have increased 10 fold in recent years, the amount of bloatware has increased 20 fold. Yes, there should be more efficient use of the cpu other to cover the overhead of some poorly written programs. I am however surprised at the current OpenSolaris Indiana that uses Gnome as a desktop manager rather than opt for a "lightweight" manager or options for such. Is there a ROX, Fluxbox or Xfce in the works as optional installs?

Posted by Robert J on November 16, 2008 at 10:59 PM PST #

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