How to solve a problem like the netbook? To my mind, despite nearly every manufacturer taking a stab at the thing, none has yet quite distilled my idea of what the Ultimate Netbook would be. This is partly because, until recently, not everyone had a clear understanding of what a netbook was meant to do but also because manufacturers have all been far too busy jostling for market share to put a lot of thought into the finer details.
This isn't to say there haven't been some fine examples, mind; the likes of the Asus Eee PC 901, Eee PC 1000H, MSI Wind (as the Advent 4211) and Acer Aspire One have all been worthy of awards in the past, and there are plenty of new contenders from Dell, Samsung, Toshiba, Lenovo and the like that could yet fit our perfect mould. Right here and now, though, we're still waiting.
So, if you'll forgive the analogy, we're still waiting for the Apple iPhone of netbooks - the example that blows all out of the water and sets a new benchmark for all to follow. Now, having looked at so many of them in the past, I'm going to try and find the recipe for my Ultimate Netbook and hopefully some of you will agree and maybe add a few thoughts of your own, too!
This is probably the one area where netbooks could do with a lot more work. Nice though the likes of the Eee PC 901 or MSI Wind are, none but a select few netbooks have that look and feel that says they're a serious bits of technology. They are, to quote an oft used phrase: "toy-like". There is an exception, however; the wonderfully flawed HP 2133 Mini-Note PC. This is largely because, rightly or wrongly, it was meant for the business and education market and had a suitably smart but also durable design to match.
It is clearly an excellent starting point, yet its metal finish undoubtedly added too much cost. So, what we really need is a balance between this and something like a Sony VAIO TZ. Something that isn't finished in cheap white or black plastic, but has a few more subtle curves and a slightly more quality feel to it. What we really need is a "business class" netbook, a device you'd happily sit down and use around all those snooty business execs. Something they'll think looks premium and exclusive, but is in fact cheap and cheerful so you can laugh inwardly and say "if only they knew!"