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The future of netbooks in the enterprise

Netbook use is growing among corporate workers, but what does their future look like in the enterprise?

Netbook use is proliferating among corporate workers, but their prospects in the enterprise are limited.

"I see netbooks popping up left and right. We've deployed 350 for customers and there's no question that netbooks will grow in corporate environments," said Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, a systems integrator in Oakland, Calif. "It's an option but I would not have a netbook because it doesn't have the power I want."

Still, the netbook is enough for one top executive at one of his enterprise customers, a mobile executive who wanted a lighter laptop and the ability to run just one financial application. "We did a system for a CFO who said she doesn't want to carry a 7 pound laptop, so we gave her a 3 pound netbook with 1 GB of memory and a 40 GB drive," said Morimoto, who installed the software off the network. "All she uses is Excel."

Turkcell's IT team is investigating the possibility of replacing laptops with netbooks for its employees who travel internationally. But again, the little laptop's limitations concern the IT chief of the Istanbul, Turkey company. "One of our concerns about netbooks is performance," said Zihni Ugurbil, head of Turkcell's Infrastructure and Operations Division. "We are a little bit hesitant to replace laptops with netbooks."

Chris Maresca, an open source consultant, first noticed the impact of netbooks at the 2008 Open Source ThinkTank where "it seemed like every other CEO was using one."

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 Netbooks are making a dent in the corporate enterprise but their use is limited to mobile workers and top executives, he said. "Netbooks are a welcome change for those people who travel for a living; but for the average office worker they are not powerful enough to be their only machine, especially with the restricted screen," Maresca said. "But for the moment, they are confined to parts of the organization that can justify purchasing two or more computers for their staff, or they are bought by staff themselves to supplement their work machines."

The consultant envisions the netbook evolving into something akin to Apple's old Powerbook Duo that have an add-on base station offering more graphics and storage. For sure, netbooks are "influencing the design of mainstream laptops, such as Lenovo's X-Series," Maresca added.

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