A few weeks ago ThinkFree released a suite of office applications specifically designed for netbooks with low resolution displays. The software runs on your computer, but you can also synchronize documents with ThinkFree’s online service. The full version of the software costs $50, but if you filled out a survey when the product was first launched, the company should have sent you a free license key by today.
ThinkFree has also released some of the findings from the survey, which received over 4000 responses. Now keep in mind, this isn’t exactly a representative sample of all netbook users. Rather, it’s people who were made aware of the promotion and felt motivated enough to fill out a survey in exchange for software they may or may not use. That said, here’s some of what ThinkFree found.
People are using netbooks for business, entertainment, and communication. Popular uses inclue contact, calendar, and task management, posting to blogs, browsing the web, listening to music, and sending email, IMs, or making VoIP calls using Skype or similar software.
As for office applications, the survey found that people are reviewing documents, spreadsheets and presentations and making minor edits, but not generally treating netbooks as their primary machine for these applications.
Interestingly, there’s no mention of video in the list of typical applications.
ThinkFree also says that users expect netbooks applications to start up quickly, load documents quickly, and use low amounts of storage and RAM. Unsurprisingly, the survey also found that users want applications to be adapted to low resolution netbook displays. No surprise there. If you have an application with dozens of toolbars and a screen resolution of 1024 x 600 or 800 x 480, all you’ll be able to fit on the screen are toolbars.
Of course, it just so happens that ThinkFree Office Netbook Edition has a low resolution document viewer mode. But if you want to edit documents, you have to use more standard looking word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation apps – which are overloaded with unecessary taskbars, if you ask me. I don’t know what people have against drop-down menus and keyboard shortcuts, but I find them to be a perfectly good way to save space.