Microsoft, HP, others shy away from Intel 'netbook' moniker

Netbook. Subnotebook. Mini-notebook. Mini-laptop. Mini. Why so many names for the same low-powered laptop with 10-inch screen and no optical drive?

Netbook. Subnotebook. Mini-notebook. Mini-laptop. Mini. Why so many names for the same low-powered laptop with 10-inch screen and no optical drive?

Netbooks are still in the early shakeout period when everyone is trying to figure out how to position the wildly popular devices. "Netbook" is the original term coined by Intel, maker of the netbook's Atom chip. Intel defines the netbook as "a simple, low-cost Internet device designed for basic Internet tasks such as browsing, social networking and education."

That's an accurate description of the netbook. But the companies trying to sell them would prefer to call them something that sounds a tad more capable. Cuter probably doesn't hurt, either.

"Netbook is limiting, and conveys an idea that the device is simply for surfing the web or Internet," an HP spokesperson told The Standard. "We chose the name HP Mini notebook ("Mini" for short) because our minis do much more than simply provide a conduit or connection to the Internet or Web. Our HP Mini's are full-functioning companion notebook PCs that offer business users and consumers a more complete computing experience in a very small, portable, and personal form factor."

Evidently Microsoft feels the same market pressure. After ticking off all the same netbook limitations as the Intel definition, a Microsoft spokesperson said the company preferred to call netbooks "small notebook PCs."

Though it's currently passed over netbooks in favor of developing a processor for a new ultrathin category of laptop, AMD said it prefers to call netbooks "mininotebooks" because that's the term analyst firms such as Gartner and IDC use.

With Dell and most other laptop vendors also favoring some variation on "mini-notebook" (Asus' Eec line is the big exception), it appears netbooks are headed toward standardizing on that name -- at least until the netbook branches out from its current specs and a whole new crop of confusing product labels come along.

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Carla Thornton

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