Netbooks are dead, and this time it is for real. Asus and Acer, the last two holdouts, have officially announced that they will stop production of their Eee PC and Aspire One netbooks in 2013. Netbooks have been good sellers in the Philippines, and other developing countries because of their low cost, while having large storage and good productivity. These netbooks with started their life priced at the Php20K to Php30K price range, gradually came down in price to cover the Php10 to Php18K price ranges. In a way, they are not as necessary today. You can get a decent 11-inch to 14-inch laptop today for a little over Php18,000.
But is a way, netbooks are not dead. Both Samsung and Acer produce Google Chromebooks. Chromebooks are literally netbooks. The Chromebook is literally the new netbook. These Chromebooks are powered by Google Chrome operating system. Basically, it is a operating system which really only includes the Google Chrome browser. What makes the interesting, is they cost a lot less. The Acer C7 Chromebook retails for US$199, so it would be a Php10K or so laptop. The Samsung Chromebook retails for US$249 for the WiFi only model, so about Php12-13K.
If you want to see what this is like, you can try using your current PC using only the Chrome Browser. You can download the apps you need from the Chrome Webstore.
Apps you download will appear in your browser or when you open a new tab.
To create documents, spreadsheets and presentations, you can use Google Doc's and should have no problem reading and creating Microsoft Office compatible formats.
Earlier, I said this is literally a "Netbook". For the most part it needs an active internet connection to work. I have not tried all the apps in the Chrome Webstore, so I cannot say all of them need an active internet connection to work, but for the most part at least they do.
As far as I can tell offline capabilities are limited to creating documents and GMail, which will both work offline. Email you create and send while offline will be sent next time you have an internet connection. For me that is enough for my everyday work. Those who do a lot of spreadsheets and presentations may find all this limiting.
One issue I have is photo-editing. There are several photo editors available, and I like Pixlr Editor. In order to edit a photo, you have to upload the picture to edit it.
So basically, these Chromebooks have good functionality online, and rather limited offline functionality.
On the one hand, limited internet access in developing countries would mean that these Chromebooks would not be useful to many. On the other hand, I rarely use an computer these days unless I have internet access.
What might I do offline? I prepare documents and spreadsheets. I edit photos. I really have no other user for my laptop offline.
I think the Google Doc's needs to get spreadsheets and presentation to work in offline mode too. Chrome OS really needs an offline photo editor.
Should Google sell Chromebooks in the Philippines and other developing countries? On the one hand they are cheap, and cheap laptops are useful in developing countries. On the other hand, they have limited functionality for those who do not have an internet connection handy at home and other places they frequent.
Me, I want one.