Here come the netbooks

Netbooks are a recent and significant innovation. Basically they are very small notebook computers with stripped down capabilities that are optimised for connectivity. They all have wi fi and some have bluetooth and some have 3G cellphone capabilities. They have two massive advantages. The first is that they are very portable, around 1Kg (2 pounds) is the norm. The second is that they are very cheap. About half the cost of a notebook. And they are going to become a lot cheaper.

Netbooks work with the cloud. You use online applications like Googlemail and Google Documents. So you don’t even need a hard drive, which is why many netbooks don’t have one. It also means that this incredibly portable device can be taken all over the world yet has the power, via the cloud, to do all the proper computing tasks you would want.

So netbooks are going to become massive. Dell and Acer said they wouldn’t get into this market. But when they saw where it was going they quickly changed their minds. These machines work very well with a version of Linux called Ubuntu and this has just been made available for the ARM processor. ARM/Ubuntu machines have the potential to be cheaper than Intel/Windows machines which will drive prices down even further. $100 is not an impossible end user price.

So netbooks will almost certainly become the most popular PCs. And PC gaming is already far bigger than all console gaming put together. So netbooks are headed towards being one of the most important gaming machines on earth. And this has a significant impact on the future of gaming.

Netbooks have reduced storage and processing capabilities. They cannot store and run big and complex games internally. They make up for this by having brilliant connectivity. So they are the perfect tool for playing online games such as MMOs and the contents of all the casual gaming portals. They are going to have an immense effect on pushing gaming onto servers. Boxed retail games are not what netbooks are about.

This is another arrow in the back of high street game retail. And another major factor into making gaming an online industry. So it will help force social networking and gaming closer together. Portals like Steam need to evolve to become more server based but they are agile enough to do so. It will not be a revolution, more like speeded up evolution.

As ever in the gaming industry we live in interesting times.


  1. Years ago Oracle tried to go through on a similar concept with the NC, and it failed miserably. Wireless broadband and broadband overall still have a long way to go before this is viable, specially in developing countries.

  2. The title of the post and the idea is very intriguing. I have no doubt that netbooks will be a big item. However I’m not seeing the connection fully from point A to point B. So if netbooks (which have limited processing and graphics capabilities) are going to be used to play games online how will the functions be delivered? There seem to be some missing pieces needed between the power in the cloud and the limited client to enable an excellent user experience. More info please!

  3. We have already been working on these ‘missing’ pieces for some while. I am working at a game development company which focuses to make games which even run on low end pc’s. In the office we have a laptop which is more than 5 years old, just to test our games on. The current netbooks have system specs which are better in every way.

    The games we make are action packed 3D games.

    Interested? Go have a look at;

    Mark Schroders,
    Technical Director

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