Over the past two years Dell has put out some of the most popular netbooks on the market. But CEO Michael Dell doesn’t seem that impressed with the platform. Or rather, he wants to convince people that they aren’t that impressed and that a netbook is no replacement for a laptop with a larger screen and processor.

At a recent event Dell, reportedly suggested that if you hand a netbook to someone used to a larger laptop, they’ll think it’s “cute” and light… but that within a day or two they’re going to want their larger screen back. At another point, Dell said that using a netbook is “not a good experience and we don’t see users very happy with those.

He did venture that netbooks are good for niche markets like schools. But clearly Dell is selling an awful lot of netbooks to end users. The company has introduced number of mini-laptops with 9 to 12 inch displays including the Inspiron Mini 9, Mini 10, Mini 10v, and Mini 12 and Latitude 2100. Some of those models have since been discontinued, but the Mini 9 has long been one of the most popular mini-laptops around among a certain group of netbook enthusiasts: Hackintosh builders.

What’s kind of funny about this whole thing is that while Michael Dell is busy putting down netbooks, his company is still taking creative steps to convince people to buy them.

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12 replies on “Michael Dell talks trash about netbooks”

  1. Netbooks are about intentional compromise. My Dell Mini 9 does not have a traditional hard drive or a CD/DVD drive (which I rarely use in my laptop and desktop). It has a smaller than normal screen. It has a small, somewhat cramped keyboard.

    Having said that, the Dell Mini 9 is the most useful computer that i own. It is small enough to take almost anywhere. It powers on in about 20 seconds. I keep most of my documents on the internet, so the smaller SSD is not an issue (though I did buy a 16GB SSD to load OS X)

    I have almost eliminated paper from my life. Everything goes straight into the Mini 9. I’m glad I bought it when I did, as all the vendors are now making their netbooks bigger, thinking that the small size was a problem.

    I would not use it for extended typing, but that is why I have a desktop computer.

    Michael Dell doesn’t get it.

  2. I have two netbooks. They weren’t bought to replace my notebook computers. I also have two notebook computers. The netbooks were to suppliment the notebook computers. The netbooks are easier to carry around and use on the go. Since they fit quite nicely in my bag, it does not look like I am carrying a computer. My notebook computers have replaced my desktop which took up too much space and is difficult to move around my house.

  3. Well then the fact is in all truth I don’t need a full laptop. There you go you still don’t have me for a customer Dell. My EEE works well for all my traveling needs. I will concede to the fact that for work. Yes, they gave me a laptop for office and field work (It is a Dell), but I as a consumer would never need a full size one, at least as long as I either have some sort of desktop at home or am not a power user.

  4. I think Michael Dell is off-base here. . . but not totally off-base. The size of the screen, and the size of the keyboard, and the size of the trackpad have been a bit of an issue — at least for some people.

    Apple really hit a sweet spot with the form factor of the Macbook Air, IMHO. The screen, keyboard and trackpad are all big enough to use comfortably, but it’s still more convenient to carry around than the typical heavy and chunky notebook. It’s just too bad the Air been over-specced and wildly over-priced in comparison with netbooks.

  5. I used to have an EEE 900 when it had just come out; $400. It was amazing. It’s hard to imagine that that was less than a year ago at this very moment. I broke the screen on it, however.

    I loved it very much, though.

    Now I have an HP dv7z, a seventeen-incher with ATi’s Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics that can play all sorts of games. But I regret not getting a better model EEE or whatever other netbook that was out there for ~$200 less than what I paid for this hulking giant. The HP sits on my desk most of the time, not powerful enough to be an amazing gaming rig, and definitely not portable enough to be practical for me to take to class every day.

    For the first time, it is the standard-sized laptop that has to struggle to find a place in my life.

  6. Come back and talk to me when your typical cut-rate 14/15″ notebook with its standard 4 or 6 cell battery for $400-$600 can get more than a pathetic 1.5 hours battery life, Mr. Dell. And never mind what a PIA it is to tote around.

    I don’t think netbooks are or ever were notebook replacements. Notebooks are for people who need their entire working PC with them every-flippin-where they go. I have never bought a notebook. I bought a netbook and I can do tons of stuff on the Web with it, and even write documents, play videos or edit a few quick photos from my camera/cell phone. And I like it very much. I can’t help what some uninformed cheapskates do, ordering a device they know nothing about and thinking they’re actually getting a full notebook for super cheap.

    1. the confusion comes from all of them running windows…

      people seems to think that since it can run windows, it can run all their games, heavy applications and whatsnot…

      lets hope moblin catches on, and we see netbooks running it side by side with win7 netbooks in store shelfs…

  7. The problem is how DELL and many others sell netbooks. They put in these ‘cute & flashy’ stand-alone pictures of the netbooks with no scale next to them. They don’t show images of someone’s hand on the keyboard, or someone gripping the case to show people the scale.

    What DELL and many manufactures do is they sell people netbooks without the information people need. Then people get them and go, “Crap I didn’t know it wouldn’t work or act like a computer!” They saw the cheap price and the proportions looked the same…it looked like a notebook…so people buy these netbooks without understanding. The consumer is left in the dark assuming what they are buying is what they have always bought.

    The same thing happened with early netbooks and Linux. People didn’t understand that Linux meant you can’t just download the latest small ‘windows’ program update or their MP3 wouldn’t always synch with it. I just meet a dude in my coffee shop who bought an Asus 8.9″ netbook with Linux…he had NO CLUE what he was buying it was just cheap. Maybe that’s his fault, but there are likely tens of thousands of people like that buying netbooks and feeling duped and stupid.

    I say it is NOT really their fault, these devices are sold without helpful reminders and helpful VISUAL information about what the person is buying, what it looks like and what it does.

    1. I think people are increasingly aware of what they’re getting with the size, at least going by the number of people who gather around the netbook selection at Best Buy.

      Of course, the reality of the screen resolution and speed (for certain apps) is a bit different, but the only way for people to get a sense of that is — as Dell says — to take it home for a day or two.

      Still, I see all of these issues being less of a problem as CULV systems and such fill in the gaps between netbooks and other computers. Historically, people have been able to figure out that the cheaper computer won’t do as much as the pricier computer, so when there are cheap thin-and-light systems as well as midpriced thin-and-light systems, people will be more likely to buy the one they actually want.

      1. people are to used to the CPU curve going one way, up up up.

        that is, each new computer they bought would be faster then the one they had before.

        with atom, that may well not be the case. some benchmarks shows that its not much faster then the celeron asus used in their first rounds of eeepc. That is, unless you manage to get the multithread feature going. But thats not that much different from having multiple cores…

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