The first netbook was launched in late 2007, but the little laptops have really come of age during 2008.
The general principle of small, light and portable notebooks has been around in the form of sub-notebooks and ultra-mobile PCs for some time, but these have traditionally been very expensive.
The netbook came into its own when technology reached the point that entry level was good enough for the average user, meaning that manufacturers could develop a truly small, cheap and cheerful machine that could comfortably handle the rudimentary requirements of most users and sell at a highly attractive price.
The launch of the netbook was also aided by the progression of Linux, allowing vendors to cut out the cost of the operating system as well as customise it to offer a very basic and simple to navigate interface.
Since the hugely successful launch of the Eee 701, Asus has produced a host of new netbooks to meet the varied demands of its customers, including the 901 and 1000 series as well as its more upmarket S101.
In that time every other PC manufacturer has moved to claim its stake in the market, with the likes of Acer, Lenovo, LG, Toshiba, Samsung and possibly even Apple clamouring to take a share. A few brands such as Apricot have been resurrected in the guise of a netbook.
Over the course of the year the netbook concept has taken hold and chip makers have begun developing specifically designed components. These include the Intel Atom and Via Nano processors, and most recently Nvidia chipsets specifically for netbooks.
The original Asus Eee PC had a tiny 7in screen, 512Mb of RAM and 4GB of Flash-based storage, selling for around £220. Since then the market has developed as users demanded slightly higher powered machines. Today, the majority of netbooks have displays between 9in and 12in, usually 1Gb of RAM and use either solid state or standard notebook hard drives, selling for between £300 and £400.
This steady growth in size, power and price has blurred the line between netbook and fully fledged notebook, although netbooks still lack an optical drive and focus more on portability than performance.
It also seems that, although Linux was originally the operating system of choice for netbooks, the majority of customers are opting for Windows XP versions of the devices.
With many users taking their netbooks on the road, some manufacturers have also announced plans to embed mobile broadband modems into their netbooks, selling the devices with a mobile broadband contract.
With these devices growing in popularity in 2008, and designs becoming more settled, the battle is starting to move onto the desktop with the development of 'nettops' - desktop PCs with a similar spec, size and price to their portable counterparts.
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