The Distinction Is Blurring
In fact, the distinction between netboook and laptop computers may have already disappeared. Some analysts, including Mathias, already lump them together. Tablets, likewise, may be morphing into notebook computers more than supplanting them. The touch screen and multitouch technology that's already being used on the iPad and on a variety of smartphones is pretty much a sure thing for laptop computers. Touch screens have been around for years, and so have tablets that can switch between being laptop computers and using touch-sensitive screens. The biggest difference that's on the horizon will be the adoption of some of the technologies that have seen success in the tablet and mobile world. For example, Apple's iPad uses the same operating environment as its iPod Touch. HP's rumored Hurricane tablet may use Palm's WebOS. These new environments will also bring their user interfaces and media display capabilities. Another area that's already making the transition from mobile devices to notebook computers is solid state storage. While rotating hard disks will clearly be around for a while because of their low price and high capacity, their days in the world of mobile computers, including laptops, are numbered. Solid state disks are immune from the moderate shocks of daily mobility, and also use less power, which in turn allows for greater battery life. Some netbook computers and a few notebook computers already offer solid state storage as an option, but rapid growth in that area is held back by the cost of providing large capacity solid state storage. While the cost will certainly change in the near future, solid state storage is still a ways out of the general run of portable computers.
In the shorter term, however, it's starting to look like a few of the trends that are already showing up in consumer laptop computers have started to make their way into the enterprise as well. In addition, notebook computers will diversify even more than they already have, with desktop and workstation replacement devices becoming more common. In addition, according to Carol Hess-Nickels, HP's director of Worldwide Business Notebook Marketing, you're going to see big changes in industrial design.