[blindkid] Comment on Netbooks

Richard Holloway rholloway at gopbc.org
Fri May 25 03:27:12 UTC 2012


As I understand it, "Ultrabooks" are more in the category of super-lightweight laptops. More of a high-end elite product. They have less power than a conventional laptop to save power, but are made as small and light as possible so they cost a lot more. They have no DVD or CD drive, not to save money, but to stay thin and light. More expensive batteries are used for these to keep weight down with the most battery life possible, and so forth.

If you are familiar with the MacBook Air, the Macbook that can fit into a manilla envelope and which weighs between 2.38 and 2.96 pounds (there are 11 and 13 inch models) that would be an Ultrabook, as I understand them. There are PC counterparts from a number of manufacturers.

One thing to know about these machines is that one cost of weight loss is reduced strength, durability, and increased flex of the unit. I have twisted a number of these (gently) on showroom floors. I am not impressed with the amount they bend when I do that. I expect all but the oldest and most cautious students could destroy one of these machines very quickly. Figure one drop on a corner or sticking it in the middle of a stack of books in a backpack and there is a good change the machine will be destroyed. 

I agree that iPads and similar products have taken some market share from netbooks, but I think the ultrabook is less of a competitor with netbooks and more a competitor of more conventional notebooks.

The basic netbook concept is similar to other machines that have been marketed as educational units in "third world" countries for a while now. From what I read, those go for around $100 and often have copies of programs like MS Word installed at rates discounted as low as $3 to $5 per license (not a typo), if what I read from multiple sources is true. I think Microsoft's philosophy is there is zero cost associated with selling this software. It is already developed and distribution is completely electronic.

My point is not to digress, but there is such a need for super-low-cost laptops that I expect something akin to the netbook will be around for these marketplaces for a long time, and as long as they are developing those, it is inexpensive to maintain similar machines in the $150 to $400 or $500 range here. Market share will decline, but I expect the 10" range netbook will be around for quite a while.

One more thing to be aware of when we are looking for laptops. Lately I am seeing more and more conventional laptops with what where once standard features now deleted. Case in point, numerous standard size (15 inch) machines come without  DVD or even a CD drive. If you see a conventional looking laptop in the $250 range, chances are it has no DVD drive included, same thing for removable media drives as well as a reduction in memory and HD space on the lowest-end models, so they are almost becoming oversized netbooks themselves. 

It reminds me of buying a car. There used to be a few main manufacturers of cars with a handful of models each. I read just this week that there are over 250 different cars in production now from dozens of different manufacturers. So it seems to be with computers. Each company wants to set their machine apart so all of the old "lines" which used to separate classes of machines seem to have been completely blurred.

Buying computers may have gotten cheaper, but from where I sit, it has also gotten a lot more confusing!


On May 24, 2012, at 10:45 PM, David Andrews wrote:

> I don't know the exact status of Netbooks, I would think some ware still
> available, but they are no longer in the limelight as they were a couple
> years ago.  They aren't the darlings of the industry.  I think most people
> figured out they wanted more, or less.  They have been eclipsed by the iPad.
> Some new computers, called Ultrabooks are starting to appear.  They are
> between a full laptop and a Netbook.
> Dave
> -----Original Message-----
> From: blindkid-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:blindkid-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
> Behalf Of Bonnie Lucas
> Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2012 7:57 PM
> To: 'Blind Kid Mailing List, (for parents of blind children)'
> Subject: Re: [blindkid] Comment on Netbooks
> Do some computer stores not carry netbooks any longer? I ask this because
> Aubrie and my husband were at Best Buy here in Anchorage and they could not
> find any net books. Frankly, it's possible that they were there but my
> husband didn't see them anywhere. I ask that because I'm wondering if they
> are on the way out with all the small tablets around. We were also wondering
> if Humanware still makes the PK. If you had a small note taker and a
> netbook, you could certainly reduce the weight and include a Braille display
> without too much extra weight. Given that Aubrie has been carrying several
> Braille books to her classes, anything would be better than that. She has
> loved having her Apex and I agree with you, Richard, the ease of using it
> makes it such a cool thing to have. On Sunday, she carries only the
> BrailleNote and stuffs a couple of things in the front pocket. She uses it
> for singing hymns and reading scriptures in class, along with the other
> students. Her teachers put things on thumb drives and she can then read
> quotes and stories along with the other students. As a side note, I have
> given a couple of them each a slate and they make framed quotes for her just
> as they do the others to emphasize a point in the lesson. 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jaquiss, Robert [mailto:RJaquiss at nfb.org]
> Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 12:40 PM
> To: Blind Kid Mailing List, (for parents of blind children)
> (blindkid at nfbnet.org)
> Subject: [blindkid] Comment on Netbooks
> Robert Jaquiss
> Access Technology Specialist
> National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute
> 200 E. Wells Street at Jernigan Place
> Baltimore, MD 21230
> Phone: (410) 659-9314, Ext.2422
> Email: rjaquiss at nfb.org
> Hello:
>     I thought I would offer another comment on PC based laptops, netbooks,
> ultrabooks etc. JAWS makes heavy use of memory, so users should have at
> least 4GB of RAM. The faster the CPU the better. This requirement does
> preclude the use of the lower end devices. Hope this helps.
> Regards,
> Robert
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