I’ve been saying for ages that I’m not a big fan of the term “netbook,” because it implies that tiny laptops like the Asus Eee PC, MSI Wind, or HP Mini are basically web browsers with keyboards. But the truth is you can use these little machines to watch movies, listen to music, browse photos, create and edit office documents, or do pretty much anything else you could do with a 2-3 year old computer.
Now The Industry Standard is reporting that companies are starting to lean toward calling these computers mini-notebooks or some variation of that name. According to The Industry Standard, the shift is meant to explain that the machines are in fact capable little computers. But I’m not 100% convinced that’s the case. Intel, Microsoft, and mini-laptop makers including Dell and Lenovo have a vested interest in convincing consumers that netbooks aren’t as capable as full computers because they really want people to buy a mini-laptop in addition to a normal full sized laptop, which is something that recent research suggests most people are doing anyway.
Aside from HP, which has been offering premium quality netbooks at premium prices since last April, most companies would probably stand to profit if they could convince even more consumers that netbooks really are just portable web browsing devices. But there’s a factor The Industry Standard didn’t mention: Psion. The company still has the trademark on the term netbook. And even though Psion hasn’t sold a product under that name in years, it has made moves recently to start protecting its trademark. And while I’m sure a major computer maker could afford to fight a long protracted battle in the courts over the issue, it’s probably a lot easier just to use a different name – even if the popular press has sort of already settled on the term netbook.