Forget them called Netbooks. They're "cloud computers."

9:11:00 PM

The holy grail on the lips of reviewers and tech pundits is the $200 Netbook. That's Netbook, folks, not Notebook. For us laymen who aren't savvy with the new lingo that's been introduced only recently, the Netbook is a small laptop with 10" screens or smaller; compacted keyboards and a modest array of jacks for peripherals; most have Intel's more inexpensive and lightweight processor: the Atom; they don't come with built-in DVD burners or Blue Ray drives, but instead opt-out for making them plug-in peripherals. They're not flashy or sexy, but they're extremely portable, and they usually come with great WiFi capabilities and Bluetooth technology.

They are, however tricked out and are best suited for internet browsing, word processing, email writing and, really, those day-to-day functions that most of us - even our grandmothers - do with computers nowadays if we do much of anything else with computers anyway. In short, they're a worthy laptop to own for most of us not doing some funky designs, movies or music. And, the Netbook as a class of computers, is gaining traction as a descent alternative, especially when budget is an issue becaus, most importantly, the Netbook's fundamental specification that makes it a "Netbook" is its price: around $350, give or take another $50 and a few rebates or sales here and there.

Some even wonder if this new class of notebook has any place for something like the Sony Vaio P that, though it looks like a Netbook and acts like a Netbook - and could even fit into your sport coat's breast pocket - it may not be one since it costs $900 and it looks TOO sexy.

Suffice it to say, while computer taxonomists, gadget reporters, and manufacturers all debate and decide the final baseline for what makes the latest Dell or Asus or Sony or even Palm or iPhone the best Netbook of 2009, what's clear is that the Netbook may just very well be the salt-and-pepper shaker of our times - an every day staple.

That is to say, that now that "the cloud" or "cloud-computing" is quickly making its way out of geek lexicon and into a cautious media that fears being misunderstood; now that folks with Gmail and Yahoo and Quicken Online accounts suddenly know that what they've been doing all along is "cloud computing" - and they call it that; now that even the term will no longer need quotation marks or italics or even explanation of what it is with Tech dudes like David Pogue, and that other pundits who say that 2009 is the year for cloud computing to take hold, well, that just does even more for making the Netbook - the quote-unquote cloud computer - as the platform to take the center stage on our home's desks.

Cloud computing, in a nutshell is an umbrella term for the ability to get all the work you need to get done with only an electric plug and a Web browser. That is, and it's a big term for something that's already a significant portion of most of our lives: that a Web browser - and only a Web browser - is needed to do some complex tasks that were once reserved for mainframes. Also, the term signifies that more than "just" Online versions of our most used and favorite applications get some serious attention versus the version you regularly install on your home computer.

Be warned, the term "cloud computing" has the connotation of it being widespread, enveloping, and, more to the point, casting a shadow over how we have grown accustomed to using our home's machine. It's not so much lingo or a new engineering feat, it's a climate - a computing climate.

At the end of the day, when cloud computing takes hold in earnest in 2009, we won't be doing anything more fancy or intricate with our computers than we've been doing all along: e-mail, Facebook, Netflix, Online banking, Word Processing and so on down the line. What we're talking about is that the Internet and the World Wide Web has, finally, caught up to our needs from merely a markup language with billboard-like Web pages to a bonafide platform for making THIS - our individual lives - happen.

In comes the Netbook. It is not only a new product on our shelves, but also a "concept" that requires the "market" to compete with Asus - the originator of the program - with their own Dell or Sony spin on the idea. In comes the Lenovo IdeaPad S Series, and the Acer Aspire One and the Sony Vaio P; and then there's the issue of having enough credit or bank roll nowadays to be able to get the glassy wide-screen laptop with that ONE button straddling the numeric pad that will launch the manufacturers predetermined media site...

And then there's the fact that $350, or even when it gets there: the $200 Netbook, will get us in touch with the right people and allow us to network and make tee-shirt logos in the cloud - especially in these times when the credit card has been maxxed out for a few months ...

If anyone's been geeky enough to notice what's on Capt. Jean-Luc Picard's desk
, it looks suspiciously like the Asus Eee PC, and why shouldn't it. The salt-and-pepper, all-around household staple doesn't need to be bozonkers crazy with bells and whistles. It just needs to be affordable and get the work done. Leave the sophistication to those purveying the onslaught on Web-apps to come, and give us the machine that gets us to them: the Netbook, the cloud computer.

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