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An Asus Eee PC

Netbooks (a portmanteau of Internet and notebook) are a class of laptop computer designed for wireless communication and access to the Internet.[1]

Primarily designed for web browsing and e-mailing, netbooks "rely heavily on the Internet for remote access to web-based applications"[2] and are targeted increasingly at cloud computing users who require a less powerful client computer.[3]. Netbooks typically run either Linux or Windows XP operating systems [2] rather than more resource-intensive operating systems like Windows Vista[4]. The devices range in size from below 5 inches[5] to over 13,[6], typically weigh 2 to 3 pounds (~1kg) and are often significantly cheaper than general purpose laptops.[2]

Netbooks represent a "greener" alternative to larger laptops due to "lower power demands, fewer toxic components, and a resource-efficient approach to computing" and some models have achieved EPEAT gold and silver ratings.[7]


The roots of the netbook can be traced to Psion's discontinued netBook line, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project and the Palm Foleo which were all small, light network-enabled computers,[8][9][10] however the influx of netbooks began in 2007 when Asus unveiled the ASUS Eee PC. Originally designed for emerging markets, the 8.9 × 6.5 in (23 x 17 cm) device weighed about two pounds and featured a 7-inch display, a keyboard approximately 85% the size of a normal keyboard, and a custom version of Linux with a simplified user interface geared towards netbook use.[9] Following the EeePC, Everex launched its CloudBook, MSI released the Wind, Dell and HP both released a "Mini" series (the Inspiron Mini and HP Mini), and others soon followed suit. Windows XP based models were also introduced.[9]

By late 2008, netbooks had begun to take market share away from laptops.[11] It is estimated that almost thirty times more netbooks were sold in 2008 (11.4 million, 70% of which were in Europe[12]) than in 2007 (400,000).[13] For 2009 sales are expected to jump to 35 million, rising to an estimated 139 million in 2013[14]. This trend is reinforced by the rise of web-based applications as well as mobile networking and, according to Wired Magazine, netbooks are evolving into "super-portable laptops for professionals".[15]


At the start of 2009, models based on ARM[16][17] and PowerPC[18] architectures were released, indicating a shift away from Intel processors like the Atom (though some hybrid models contain both Intel and alternative architectures[19]). Models using a MIPS System-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture also appeared around the same time, resulting in very low-cost systems.[20] As Windows (except Windows NT-based versions up to and including Windows 2000 and Windows CE)[21] requires an x86-family microprocessor it will not run on these newer systems.


In 1996 Psion started applying for trademarks for a line of netBook products that was later released in 1999[22]. International trademarks were issued (including US trademark 75215401 and European Community trademark 000428250) but the models failed to gain popularity[23] and are now discontinued (except for providing accessories, maintenance and support to existing users)[24]. Similar marks were recently rejected by the USPTO citing a "likelihood of confusion" under section 2(d)[25][26][27].

Despite expert analysis that the mark is "probably generic"[28], Psion Teklogix issued cease and desist letters on 23 December 2008[29][30][31]. This was heavily criticised[32][33][34], prompting the formation of the "Save the Netbooks" grassroots campaign which worked to reverse the Google AdWords ban, cancel the trademark and encourage continued generic use of the term[35]. While preparing a "Petition for Cancellation" of US trademark 75215401 they revealed[36] that Dell had submitted one the day before[37] on the basis of abandonment, genericness and fraud[38]. They later revealed Psion's counter-suit against Intel, filed on 27 February 2009[39].

It was also revealed around the same time that Intel had also sued Psion Teklogix (US & Canada) and Psion (UK) in the Federal Court on similar grounds[40]. In addition to seeking cancellation of the trademark, Intel sought an order enjoining Psion from asserting any trademark rights in the term "netbook", a declarative judgement regarding their use of the term, attorneys' fees, costs and disbursements and "such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper"[41].

Some trademark experts argue that the petition will be upheld[42][28], in which case Psion's trademarks will be "vulnerable to cancellation across the globe"[43].



While specifications and features of netbooks continue to evolve (for example with the introduction of 12-inch screens and ARM processors), one report at the end of 2008 suggested the typical netbook featured a 3-lb (1.4 kg) weight, a 9-inch (23 cm) screen, wireless Internet connectivity, Linux or Windows XP, an Intel chip, and a cost of less than US$400.[44]

Netbooks may also forego hard[45] and optical disc drives, instead using solid-state storage devices such as internal solid-state hard drives and SD cards for their small size and weight, robustness, and durability. Software must be downloaded or read from a storage peripheral on machines with no optical drive. All netbooks on the market today support Wi-Fi wireless networking and many can be used on mobile telephone networks with data capability. Mobile data plans are supplied under contract in the same way as mobile telephony[46].


Netbooks typically come with either Windows XP or Linux pre-installed. The Linux distributions used on netbooks include Linpus Lite, Xandros and netbook-oriented versions of Ubuntu and SuSE. Many of the netbook machines come with the option of either Windows or Linux available, with the Linux option being slightly cheaper than the Windows option, as it omits the cost of the Windows licence. Ubuntu's Netbook Remix is rising in popularity, as it provides a user-friendly but powerful alternative to the pre-installed distributions.


Microsoft estimates 70% of netbooks employ Windows XP[47] and claim that they "will have high market share on netbooks" at around $35 in licenses per device[48]. Microsoft has extended the availability of Windows XP for ultra-low cost personal computers from June 2008 until June 2010,[49] possibly to keep netbooks from gaining market share at the expense of desktops and "value" laptops[50] and to avoid increased use of Linux installations on netbooks.[51] Microsoft is also testing[52] and has demonstrated[53] a 'Starter' edition of Windows 7 for this class of devices which is limited to three running applications.[54][55]

Windows CE has also been used in netbook applications, due to its reduced feature design, that keeps with the design philosophy of netbooks. [56]

Microsoft will only allow XP to be installed by the manufacturer on netbooks with no more than 1 GB of RAM, requiring Windows Vista otherwise. It is permissible for a user to purchase and install a copy of Windows XP although it may not be supported by newer hardware, and could be difficult or impossible to install.


Some users install different operating systems like Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and Darwin (Darwin is operating system used on Mac OS X). Users typically rely on online applications and services which do not require powerful hardware on the local computer.[57]


Netbooks have been known to run Google Android[58], Mac OS X (Hackintosh)[59], and other operating systems.

See also


  1. Thoughts on Netbooks
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Netbook Trends and Solid-State Technology Forecast., 7. Retrieved on 2009-01-28. 
  3. Disruptor: The 'netbook' revolution. Fortune Magazine, Michael Copeland, October 16, 2008.
  4. Cheap PCs Weigh on Microsoft. Business Technologies, The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2008.
  5. UMID Netbook Only 4.8″
  6. CES 2009 - MSI Unveils the X320 “MacBook Air Clone” Netbook
  7. Why Netbooks Are Greener than Laptops
  8. Jeff Hawkins and the World's First Netbook., Tim Bajarin, November 21, 2008.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Netbooks vs. Notebooks., Tim Bajarin, September 12, 2008.
  10. Psion's NetBook Pro Abandons EPOC in Favor of Windows CE
  11. Ian Lamont (2008-10-04). "Netbooks" Move Up In Notebook Rankings. Slashdot. Retrieved on 2008-10-23.
  12. 70% of Netbook sales are in Europe
  13. Analysis: Did Intel underestimate netbook success?
  14. ABI Research: 35 Million Netbook Shipments Expected in 2009: An Era Begins
  15. Puny, Trendy Netbooks Are Growing Up to Suit Business Users
  16. LimePC: $199 Freescale-powered netbook - Video
  17. Pegatron showcases prototype $199 netbook
  18. LimePC linux on Freescale MPC-5121e PowerPC CPU
  19. [ ARM processor runs applications in some Intel-based PCs, claims executive]
  20. Jz47xx SoCs descriptions
  21. Windows NT3.1 was released for Intel x86 PC compatible, DEC Alpha, and ARC-compliant MIPS
  22. Psion netbook news release
  23. Save the Netbooks: fighting a trademark on extinct hardware
  24. Psion Teklogix Discontinued Products
  25. US trademark 77527311 for 'G NETBOOK' rejected 31 October 2008}}
  26. US trademark 77580272 for MSI's 'WIND NETBOOK'
  27. US trademark 77590174 for Coby Electronics' 'COBY NETBOOK' rejected 13 January 2009
  28. 28.0 28.1 How To Lose A Trademark: “Netbook” Is Probably Generic
  29. Netbook enthusiast web sites getting C & D using term “netbook”
  31. Psion threatens netbook sites over trademarks
  32. ‘Netbook’ trademarked already, we’re all doomed
  33. Using the Word 'Netbook' Could Get You Sued
  34. Cease and Desist: the netbook war of words
  35. Save the Netbooks: fighting a trademark on extinct hardware
  36. Dell accuses Psion of "fraud" over netbook claims
  37. Dell fights back against Psion netBook trademark rampage
  38. Dell Goes 'Nuclear' Over Netbook Trademark
  39. Newsflash: Intel counter-sued by Psion in "netbook" trademark lawsuit; jury trial demanded
  40. Intel Wants 'Netbook' Trademark Canceled
  41. Complaint for Injunctive Relief, Declaratory Judgment & Cancellation of Federal Trademark
  42. Face it Psion: Netbook is gone
  43. Dell applies to have the term 'netbook' released from Psion ownership
  44. Tech's hope in 2009 - or curse?. Fortune Magazine, December 24, 2008, Jon Fortt.
  45. What is a Netbook computer?
  46. The Next Netbook Trend: Cellphone-Like Contract Deals
  47. Microsoft Missing Netbook Growth as Linux Wins Sales (Update2)
  48. Microsoft shares hit 11-year low
  49. Microsoft Announces Extended Availability of Windows XP Home for ULCPCs, April 3, 2008 Press release
  50. Microsoft to limit capabilities of cheap laptops, IT World May 12, 2008
  51. Microsoft U-turn to stop Linux dominating ultra low cost PC
  52. Microsoft seeking Win 7 testers for netbooks?
  53. Ars@PDC: Steven Sinofsky on Windows 7 and netbooks
  54. Windows 7 to Ship In Six Different Versions
  55. Confirmed: Windows 7 'netbook edition'
  56. Windows CE takes on Linux in low-end netbooks
  57. Shoot For the Clouds
  58. Freescale to use Android, ARM for $100 Netbook
  59. Mac OS X Netbook Compatibility Chart (Updated)

External links