Ask [GAS]: Do you really need that netbook?

By Natania Barron
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

I have a MacBook. It serves all of my needs flawlessly. It runs my browser, Scrivener, and a handful of other programs I use on a daily basis. It’s sleek and white, and quite resilient (having survived a few tumbles at the hands of my three year old). Aside from the spot where my wrist has flaked off some of the plastic at the edge, it looks pretty much exactly like it did when I first purchased it.

We should be happy. But we’re not.

And I’ll tell you why: for the last two years I’ve been besotted with netbooks. I have found myself inexplicably looking up reviews on Amazon, comparing specs; more than once I’ve been lost in the aisles at Costco, running my hands over the smooth keyboard on the new Acers, batting my eyes lovingly at the HP. Then there was that one time that I nearly bought one at Wal-Mart. A Dell. Because it was $298. For shame.

I blame BoingBoing. I blame other writers. I blame the whole internet. You know why? Because I don’t need a netbook. I have a perfectly good MacBook, and although it’s a little heavier and bigger than most netbooks, it outperforms them in every aspect imaginable. In fact, I used to have the same iBook that CNet recently profiled, which essentially was a netbook. Before there were netbooks. And we were happy. So why not now?

Yes, I have fantasies about slipping a Vivienne Tam designed netbook right into my purse, knowing that wherever I go, I can take it out and write. There’s a weird sense of power in that concept. I don’t want an iPhone, mind you. I want a small computer to bend to my will. And it’s silly how much time I’ve spent contemplating what it would be like: a coffee shops, airports, at the park…

I am not alone. I know of people who own netbooks–some who love them–but I also know a great percentage of people who simply want one. It’s a cheap computer, with limited specifications, only good for a handful of tasks, and yet we are obsessed. We think, somehow, that the netbook will make our lives easier. But that’s the problem. If, like me, you already have a gadget that gets the job done (and better–I mean, when it comes down to it I’m not willing to give up Scrivener) isn’t purchasing an additional machine actually making your life more complicated?

So why does this itchy wanting feeling persist?

Because geeks love gadgets, and we have come to love the lies, too. Sure, netbooks can be great; I wish I had one in college, for instance. But now? I don’t need two laptops. And I sure don’t need a laptop that underperforms my current model. So all that leaves me with is the fact that I want something small and cute that fits in my purse and… yeah, that just doesn’t hold up in an argument, does it?

So where do you stand on the netbook debate? Are netbooks really just bigger smartphones with keyboards? A clever marketing ploy? A viable/necessary device? A fad? A farce?

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