I have been posting a lot lately about netbooks, probably because I am shopping for one (will probably get an Asus model), and have been reading quite a bit about them online.   I like the idea of going back to basics with computing and using a machine that addresses your core needs and not adding a lot of features you may never use.   This helps us to do more with less, which means greater portability, longer battery life, and thus more efficiency on the road.  The netbook has been for awhile the antithesis of the PC hardware industry.  A quote I discussed here made a point that really says it all:

“For years now, without anyone really noticing, the PC industry has functioned like a car company selling SUVs: It pushed absurdly powerful machines because the profit margins were high, while customers lapped up the fantasy that they could go off-roading, even though they never did.”

In effect, the hardware manufacturers have been telling us what we need, rather than the other way around, in order to increase profits.  The netbook thus creates this much-needed responsiveness, and people have been buying them in droves.  You would think, then, that the hardware industry has finally “gotten it.”   However, this post on PCWorld’s blog shows that maybe they haven’t learned their lesson.

As the article points out, the lines are getting blurred.  Screens are getting bigger, video resolution is higher end, optical drives are being added, along with standard size keyboards.  Asus is adding a DVD drive and an LCD screen that supports 720p HD video for watching movies.  The price also reflects this: $531 and $590.  Hey, I thought netbooks were supposed to be cheap!  There seems to be some “feature creep” going on here to push the traditional netbook more high end.  As the article points out, “PC makers have long been conditioned to compete by continually adding new features whenever they are available.”

This appears to be an attempt to get buyers to spend more money for more machine than they may need, all to make more of a profit in a bad economy.  Anyone shopping for a netbook should keep a sharp eye on this and, when looking at one of these “netbooks on growth hormones,” ask themselves: for these features and these prices, am I better off just buying a more traditional laptop with a larger keyboard, better screen graphics, and more hard drive storage?  Keep your eyes focused on your needs, not what a manufacturer wants you to buy.