An apt follow-up to the post on data centers should be on the evolving tools to access the data centers. I had gone to Costco this morning and came across Netbooks. These are just stripped down laptops (or notebooks, if you may) that are perfect for accessing the Internet and getting your work done. Quite the rage with the college crowd apparently.
This is an attempt by the computer hardware industry to break the price barrier on portable computers. Used to about $1500 and came down to about $1000 four to five years back. But then the barrier stayed there for a while, with manufacturers adding feature on top of feature but refusing to reduce price. Till netbooks came along. These devices are priced at about $200-$350 and are pretty minimalist in their design. They have a fairly robust processor, a good sized keyboard and screen. No CD drive, for only neanderthals use a CD. But loaded when it comes to things like a Webcam, WiMax, etc. The netbook idea has two parallel phenomena that drove its evolution. One, the high-profile $100 laptop for third-world kids that really didn't go anywhere. The other was the increase in broadband penetration in the United States.
Another driver (probably) is the coming of age of the Millennial generation. When I grew up, the cool computer company of our times was Microsoft (or Apply, if you hated Microsoft). Both these companies had built their business models on paid products, products that needed upgrade and which cost money. We had therefore a certain reverence towards these companies and therefore an implicit acceptance of their pay-for-use business model.
Today's generation has come of age in the age of Google, Linux, Napster and other social networking sites. All of which are free. Today's kids feel less beholden to the idea of a computer company putting out formal products which you need to pay for and which get upgraded once every two years, for which you need to pay for again. In today's age, the idea of freeware and products that actively evolve with use is becoming more and more accepted. Ergo, the netbook.
Enough of my pop-psychology for now. Anyway, netbooks are really cool gadgets and I am tempted to get one really soon. The Economist had a good article on the subject. Let me know if you are early adopters of netbooks and your experiences so far.