Netbooks in the business: Do they make sense?

For field forces, the answer is clearly yes. For other users, the fit is less clear

Even if connected to a keyboard and monitor for better ergonomics, a netbook's processing and storage limitations come into play, confining its use to basic productivity tasks.

Road warriors may like the idea of a lightweight device for quick trips, but there's the extra cost and labor burden of maintaining two systems for these employees. Plus, what is the point of equipping your road warriors with a netbook for browsing and e-mail if they still need to carry around a full-sized notebook for everything else? In that situation, the netbook becomes not lightweight but extra weight. And the $300 plus price tag isn't a savings at all, but a luxury add-on. In this tough economic climate, that's a luxury you can skip.

Netbooks do have a place -- and a hidden advantage

Despite their limitations, it's clear that netbooks make sense in many field environments, as well as for traveling users such as salespeople who don't have demanding software needs.

And they will bring another advantage to businesses, says Gartner's Dulaney: Netbooks are putting downward price pressure on laptops. As notebooks get cheaper and perhaps a bit smaller, businesses save money.

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Ephraim Schwartz

InfoWorld
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