Monday, December 28, 2009

The days of the netbook are over...

Well, at least according to Stuart Miles, founder and editor of technology blog Pocket Lint, as quoted today in a BBC technology article. The article discusses the success of Netbooks as the very possible "undoing" of them as a sustainable, cheaper, popular option for portable computing...especially when firms see building mobile platforms as the real long-term solution. Many of the newer model of Netbooks are now running Windows XP or Windows 7 which has forced both the specifications and price upwards: a big change form the initial intent, and a move toward becoming simply a smaller laptop minus the real computing power (which is why laptop makers are creating thinner machines), and let's not forget that the battery life of Windows platform is never more than 3-5 hours, while the battery life of Linux, the original Netbook platform, is 10+ hours.

But for Stuart Miles what's really making it difficult for Netbooks to move with users into next generation of computing tools are the changing expectations and habits of web users: habits and expectations which make are simply too complex for the current portable computing devices to handle.

With more savvy web use driving the market, and with an emphasis on complexity of tasks, the approaching wave of tablet computing and rapid evolution of smart phones will also make a serious dent in the progression of Netbooks as serious tool of choice for users and industry to grow with.

What does this mean for educators / boards who are trying to determine the best classroom technology tools for the next five years? Perhaps it would make more fiscal and strategic sense to take a cautious approach with more consideration given to the methodology as opposed to the tool. Laptops will probably outlast Netbooks - actually the two will probably morph into one, and they do have more application when you consider the range of desktop teaching tools which are still heavily used. Is it the right time to jump head-first into the e-reader market when all signs point to new tools around the "production" corner which will handle e-books, digital textbooks, and many other digital classroom tools and activities? And what about the Interactive Whiteboard, the teacher / teaching-centric piece of technology which, based on current practices, delivers a rather two-dimensional "interactive", and which research has shown, the success of IWB usage is more dependent on changing methodologies and curricula than the technology itself.