Monday, April 5, 2010

Netbook Secrets – A practical story

Today may seem a bit of an odd day to start a new blog called Netbook Secrets considering all the hype around a certain company in California is receiving regarding their latest/greatest device. Just in case you have been under a rock Apple shipped the first round of slate computer devices to their customers known as the iPad over the weekend. The iPad is a slate computing device that costs $499 for the cheapest model. The iPad does not have a physical keyboard but instead relies upon a touch-screen interface similar to the iPhone.

Netbooks on the other hand are not flashy devices (but they do support Flash unlike the iPad) they are rather diminutive in size, practical, and affordable. Netbooks have been around since 2007 and do not have many of the limitations of the first incarnation of the iPad. Granted, I am sure the iPad will improve with each successive generation but I am amazed that many are not considering a netbook alternative right now in light of such current limitations, not to mention costing half as much and capable of doing so much more than the iPad. Before everyone puts the final nail in the coffin of the netbook story I want to share my experiences over the past couple of years regarding the affordability and effectiveness of netbooks in the classroom.

To be fair the iPad and netbooks are in two different categories of devices and each have their own strengths. Comparing them at this point really is like comparing apples and oranges, sorry couldn’t resist. Even though they are in two different form factor camps I wanted to provide a snapshot in history of the two devices before the category of netbooks completely disappears from the face of the earth as some are predicting.

Screen 9.7 inch
Physical Keyboard – No, but Bluetooth keyboard available separately
Battery Life – 10 hours reported
Flash Support - No
Software – apps approved by Apple
Hard Drive – 16GB, up to 64 GB available
USB Ports - No
VGA or HDMI port - No
Touch Screen - Yes
Removable battery - No
Wide Screen - No
Webcam - No
Multitasking – No
Card Reader - No
Closed Platform - Apple only
Weight - 1.5 pounds
Costs - $499 lowest price model up to $829

Screen 10 inch typical
Physical Keyboard – Yes, 92% full-size
Battery Life – up to 14 hours with latest models
Flash Support - Yes
Software – whatever you want to install, Windows or Linux supported
Hard Drive – 160GB common, larger sizes available
USB Ports - Yes
VGA or HDMI port – Yes, can connect to large screen HDTV
Touch Screen – No, but touch screens are available on some newer models
Removable battery - Yes
Wide Screen - Yes
Webcam - Yes
Multitasking – Yes
Card Reader - Yes
Open Platform – Yes, Windows XP, Windows 7 and/or Linux versions
Weight - 3.2 pounds typical
Costs - Typically between $200 to $500

Here is a recent article from PC World comparing the two devices:

Here is an article from Mobile-Tech-Today predicting the demise of the netbook:

As you can see some have maligned netbooks in the press as being underpowered devices that do not do anything well. Despite such misperceptions netbooks are finding a niche in educational settings.

This blog will share my experiences with netbooks over the past two years and how they do offer many positive benefits for educators and especially students. Most importantly these benefits are real-life and already implemented with proven results. So if you are interested in hearing a few secrets about netbooks you have come to the right place. As with all things technology related netbooks will continue to evolve but they have already made a huge impact for educational institutions willing to keep an open mind.

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