WHEN NETBOOKS first appeared on the scene many of them had solid state drives (SSDs) and Linux on board. However that has been changing.
Toshiba's NB200 mini-laptop does not offer any SSD options in its featured configurations and Linux has disappeared in favour of Windows XP. Few of the most recent Acer, Toshiba and HP netbook offerings are preloaded with Linux, and SSD options seem to be fading away.
When Asus Eee PCs first appeared they were stripped to the bone to cut costs and a Linux OS was part of the package. However the newer versions of netbooks are starting to look like cut-down versions of Windows XP laptops from about six years ago.
It seems that punters are wanting 160GB hard disk drives and as much as 2GB of memory in their netbooks. High-capacity SSDs are too expensive to provide that much storage capacity and, according to market research firm Isuppli, prices for flash memory chips have been going through the roof.
How can hardware makers install 16Gb flash chips when the price has gone up by 127 per cent over the last six months? The answer is that they can't while also keeping selling prices low.
It is cheaper for hardware OEMs to install conventional hard-drives and advertise more storage capacity. Most users cannot tell much difference in speed with SSD's anyway.
So what of Linux? Well the sad fact is that some netbook punters don't like it. It might bring the price down, but the great unwashed seems happier with Windows XP which they know how to use.
But all this progress has moved away from the attraction of a cheap and cheerful netbook, which was the Eee PC's charm. Netbook prices could increase even further when the more expensive Windows 7 starts appearing on the little beasts.
This could leave a hole in the market that might be exploited next year when Google gets its Chrome OS off the ground. Or does it mean that the days of cheap SSD Linux netbooks are over? µ
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