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Tuesday focus: Gadgets

Tue., Oct. 7, 2008

Chris Deutsch, a tech-savvy Minneapolis real estate agent, loves the mini-size netbook computer, but Shane O’Gorman, his counterpart in Eau Claire, Wis., doesn’t.

What’s a netbook? It’s an ultra-small, no-frills laptop for people on the go who want to spend about $350.

It’s a direct descendant of the $100 really-no-frills PC developed by the organization One Laptop Per Child for use in developing countries – a device that wasn’t priced to be profitable.

But PC makers soon decided to market a more profitable netbook; more than 20 models are available from companies such as Acer, Sony, Intel and Dell.

Deutsch bought a netbook (also called a nettop) for about $350. O’Gorman nearly bought a netbook, but opted for a laptop instead.

Deutsch said a netbook is less expensive and lighter than a laptop, and adequate for Net access. O’Gorman said a netbook is overpriced, barely lighter than a laptop, and runs too slowly.

A netbook’s limitations mean a user may have to do without large spreadsheets, photo editing and high-definition video. They also have less storage space for music, photos and video.

Both Deutsch and O’Gorman may be partly right; analysts say netbook PCs have limited performance today but have the potential to begin taking sales away from laptops in about two years. As netbooks gain more laptop-like characteristics, netbook shipments could grow from 5.2 million this year to as much as 50 million by 2012, according to Connecticut research firm Gartner.

That could make a big difference to real estate agents, who want a small, portable computer so they can answer clients’ questions on the spot. Deutsch, of Exit Lakes Realty in Minneapolis, said he uses his netbook to show clients property history reports, lists of property showings and virtual fliers about houses.

“The biggest draws for the netbook are price and size,” Deutsch said. “My laptop has a 15-inch screen and weighs 6.5 pounds, while my netbook has about a 7-inch screen and weighs about 2 pounds.” Minneapolis Star-Tribune


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