Tag Archives: netbook

Losing the shinyness

A dead netbook

Why aren’t we talking about netbooks anymore?

It wasn’t that long ago that everyone in the edtech world was talking about cheap netbooks and how they would revolutionise learning and change education forever.

Where are those netbooks now?

Back in the autumn of 2007, Asus launched their Asus EeePC. I managed to get my hands on one in February 2008; a small form factor PC running Xandros (Linux) with a 7″ screen. There had been small laptops before, but they were usually around £2000, the Asus EeePC was less than £200!

In 2008 everyone was talking about how wonderful the netbooks were and that finally here was a device that would revolutionise the use of learning technologies in the classroom.

It wasn’t long though before the “issues” started to arise. Screen size and keyboard size meant that before long the 7” netbook started to grow and today when we look at netbooks in most computer retailers, they have 10” screens and almost full size keboards. In a similar manner, the “free” operating system wasn’t liked by users or consumers and now virtually all netbooks come with Windows 7. The Linux revolution touted by some never happened. Also the storage limitations, the original EeePC only came with 2GB of storage, meant that the robust flash memory was replaced by more delicate hard drives so that users could have the storage needed to do what they wanted on the device. Another big issue was battery life, for some netbooks, 90 minutes was the norm, this meant that the portability of the device was sacrificed as you needed to be connected to the wall by the power cable.

The final nail in the coffin though has to be the MacBook Air and the Ultrabooks, which take us full circle back to the £1000 sub-notebooks that the netbooks were suppose to replace. These devices with their solid state drives, full size(ish) keyboards and high res screens.

Perhaps another nail in the coffin came from the release of the iPad in 2010, we suddenly realised that we didn’t want a cheap netbook, what we actually wanted was a tablet.

Market research firm ABI Research reports that Q2 2011 global tablet shipments rose to 13.6 million units, compared to just 7.3 million netbooks.  (Pinola 2011)

It’s not to say that netbooks are dead just yet, they are still for sale but we’re not talking about them in the same way that we are talking about iPads and tablets.

Are people using netbooks? Yes they are, people I know who have one, really like it.

Are they embedded into our educational institutions? No.

Have they revolutionised education as predicted in 2008? No.

Have we stopped talking about them? Yes.

Have they lost their shinyness? Yes!

Pinola, M 2011, Tablet Sales Overtook Netbook Sales in Q2 2011, accessed 20th July 2012.

The Google Netbook

I have always been quite pleased with my Google Nexus One, so when I heard about the Google Netbook, the Cr-48 I was quite intrigued.

Unlike the Nexus One, the Cr-48 runs the Chrome OS and not Android. Google have been quite clear, as far as they are concerned, Android is for handheld devices and Chrome is for laptops or netbooks.

Of course the CR-48 is not a consumer device, but a test machine to demonstrate how Chrome will work. Which probably accounts for the “catchy” name.

This is not a powerful machine, it has a single USB port, video out, wifi, 3G. It has a (relatively) large 12.1” screen. It is also quite heavy!

According to WIRED:

While scrolling web pages, playing some web-based games and watching videos from YouTube and the Onion, I noticed some jerkiness and skipping. Flash Player is pre-installed (and presumably sandboxed) but watching Flash videos is a bit of a sucky experience, especially in full-screen mode.

This is certainly my experience with underpowered netbooks in the past, I have found the video experience very poor. One thing I do say about the iPad is that the video experience is very good.

WIRED do say though:

But everything at least works as advertised, and it’s still totally usable.

The key behind Chrome OS is that it is a browser based OS with all the apps you use and main storage in the cloud. Hence connectivity is a key issue. Can see this not been an issue in an institution with good wifi coverage, obviously more of an issue when using such a device outside, on a train or other area without good connectivity.

If the price is right then these devices will be something that institutions might want to consider for using with learners, possibly providing learners with their own device for use in lessons, in the library and at home.

At the moment more often than not, institutions will provide computers in suites, rooms and in the library. This requires a fair bit of infrastructure and support. By providing devices to learners, this negates the need for a large number of computer rooms (some specialist rooms will still to be needed) and also allow learners to use the device when and wherever the learner is. The institution then becomes more of a service provider, delivering an infrastucture that allows learners wireless internet access (and possibly printing). The institutional VLE, Web 2.0 services and communication tools will allow the learner to access learning when they want to, rather than when the institution says they can.

Providing devices to learners costs money, cheap netbooks have been a possibility in the past, but the linux underpowered 7” devices we have seen in the past haven’t really proved that popular with learners. As soon as you make the devices bigger and add Windows, you also add a large price tag too. Will a Chrome powered netbook be the next evolutionary stage of the netbook? Will this be a device that changes the IT culture of educational institutions? Or will it be merely something that geeks like, but no one else uses?

Unfortunately I will probably never see, let alone use the Cr-48 as the pilot programme for the US only. Ah well…

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #047: Is the netbook finished and now the iPad is the future?

What do you use your computer for?

Photo source.

Is the  netbook as a concept finished? Is the iPad the future? James, David and John discuss the rise and fall of the netbook and the potential of Apple’s iPad.

With James Clay, David Sugden and John Whalley.

This is the forty-seventh e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Is the netbook finished and now the iPad is the future?

Audio MP3

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Is the netbook finished and now the iPad is the future?

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes


You can do what with the iPad?

Many people see the iPad as a BIG iPod touch, something that is used to view content on. Though it does have a microphone, unlike the iPhone is does not have a camera.

There is though one aspect of the iPad that Apple have announced that I think some people have missed and that will be the availability of iPad versions of the iWork applications. Apple will at the same time as they release the iPad, release iPad versions of their presentation software, Keynote, wordprocessing software, Pages and spreadsheet software, Numbers.

There are also rumours that Microsoft may be working on a version of Office for the iPad.

So what does this all mean?

Well is turns the iPad from a mainly content consumption device to a device that can allow the user to both consume and create content.

So what you may say, I have a laptop that does just that!

Well it’s pretty certain that the iPad is no laptop, even Steve Jobs in his iPad announcement says that the iPad sits between the iPhone and a laptop.

However I don’t see the iPad replacing my laptop all the time, but in some circumstances I can see it replacing it some of the time.

For example in meetings, the iPad is going to be more useful than a laptop for checking information, using Pages to make notes, etc…

Likewise in conferences (where there are in some sessions no tables), the iPad (with the long battery life) will make it easier to engage in the back channel, makes notes, check URLs, share thoughts and impressions, and all the other conference stuff that at the moment most people do with a notepad and a pencil.

For learners an iPad may be a better device to bring to lessons, with easy access to e-books (and these may be getting more engaging and interactive), internet access, web tools; the ability to also create notes using Pages, or enter notes using tools like Evernote more easily than on an iPod touch or iPhone, I can certainly see many learners preferring the lightweight feel of the iPad, over a heavier laptop. Then again they might want to buy a netbook!

I don’t use spreadsheets much so I don’t see much of a use for Numbers. However I do give a lot of presentations and having Keynote on the iPad makes a lot of sense to me.

I’ve always thought that Apple should have made a Keynote Presentation App for the iPhone; you would create your presentation on the Mac, sync to the iPhone and then on the iPhone would be a little App that allowed you to both view the App on the iPhone screen, or using the AV cable you can get, show the presentation through a projector or TV. One of the issues though with that is Apps can’t use the AV cable! I guess an Apple App could, but maybe not.

If Keynote on the iPad can use the AV Cable and hopefully then other applications will also be able to use the AV out.

Of course the Keynote App for the iPad allows you to create presentations, and I really do like using Keynote as my primary presentation tool.

Overall I think Keynote and Pages for the iPad, have turned the iPad into for me from a “maybe” purchase to a “more than likely” purchase.

The TabletNetBook is Alive!

Last week on this blog I posted a blog entry about how the Netbook is Dead.

This week is CES and a few things that have been announced have (in my opinion) helped to reinforce that blog post.

Leonovo have announced their “netbook”. The ThinkPad X100e is an 11.6-inch notebook that starts at a consumer-friendly price of $449. Hardly a cheap micro-laptop? Whilst Samsung have announced a range of netbooks, all models offer the standard 10.1″ LED backlit display. Hardly the small netbook form factor that the Asus EeePC fermented as the netbook form factor? These are not netbooks, they are cheap laptops. Welcome as they are they are hardly revolutionary!

Then on Engadget we see this.

So what is it?

It’s a tabletnetbook or as they call it a smartbook.

Freescale Semiconductor is helping to kick this year’s CES off with a bang, as its latest reference smartbook design actually has somewhat of a sexy flair to it. Currently, the model is little more than a great idea, but the company is hoping to have it available for partner evaluation starting next month. In theory, at least, this “smartbook tablet” would boast an ultrathin form factor, weigh around 0.8 pounds and get powered by a 1GHz i.MX515 processor. Other specs would include 512MB of DDR2 RAM, a 1,024 x 600 touch panel, 4GB to 64GB of internal storage, a microSD expansion slot, optional 3G WWAN module, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, a USB 2.0 socket, audio in / out, 3 megapixel camera, inbuilt 3-axis accelerometer, an ambient light sensor and a 1,900mAh battery. We aren’t quite sure what kind of bulk discounts Freescale is counting on, but it’s hoping that this design will “enable a second generation of smartbook products with prices less than $200.”

For less than $200 (which in tech currency conversion means less that £200) this could be a device to certainly give all those e-Book Readers a run for their money, but also is a potential netbook replacement.