Where to next with netbooks?

Netbook computers have become a massive phenomenon. With their small form factor they make far more sense than traditional laptop computers. And the Intel Atom processors have provided exactly the right amount of processing power with increased battery life. However these machines are still just laptop lite. But their success means that thay are receiving investment that will see them quickly evolve to be a very different animal indeed.

One of the biggest changes will come with OLED screens. These use a fraction of the power of LCD screens, are much thinner, more robust and a lot cheaper to make. So netbooks will become a lot slimmer and lighter with a vastly extended battery life.

Intel will lose their current processor monopoly. There are CPUs for netbooks now from Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Freescale and others. Intel are responding to this competition by rapidly evolving the Atom and AMD have said that they are developing a netbook processor. All this action will lead to better and cheaper processors. So netbooks will have even longer battery lives and cost even less. One big development will be the removal of heatsinks and cooling fans which will make netbooks better in every way.

Thus far most netbooks come with Windows XP, which is big, old clunky bloatware not exactly best suited to the job. Linux based alternatives such as Ubuntu are still short of critical mass. Expect all this to change. Windows 7 will have a version far better optimised for netbooks, but the biggest competition could come from the mobile phone operating system, Android. This already has more than enough utility for most netbook users and has  been demonstrated by a few manufacturers.

With Windows 7 and Android comes touch screens, which means we can get rid of the keyboard. So netbooks will move from a clamshell format to a tablet format.

In fact netbooks will increasingly look and behave like big smartphones. The two devices are set on a course of convergence. And the result will become one of the most popular gaming platforms on earth.