Sony announced an ultraportable VAIO notebook Wednesday, complete with an 11.1-inch display, an Atom processor and built-in 3G networking. The company was quick to point out that the notebook isn't a netbook.
But when we consider its specs with Sony's recently announced W netbook series (or any other netbook on the market, for that matter), it's far more similar to a netbook than a notebook. In fact, an argument can be made that Sony's new VAIO X ultraportable is really a netbook by another name.
But why does Sony feel compelled to label the device as an "ultraportable?" It's not like being a netbook is a bad thing.
According to a report from market analyst DisplaySearch, the portability and low price points on netbooks are starting to "cannibalize" notebook sales. In fact, netbook sales have been so strong, thanks in part to companies like Dell, HP, and Acer, that the entire notebook PC market posted strong gains over previous quarterly and annual figures. It seems that in today's market, offering a netbook to end users seems like a smart plan.
But trying to decide if a particular computer is an ultraportable notebook or a netbook is becoming increasingly difficult. At one time, ultraportables and their 11- to 13-inch displays were easily distinguishable from the netbooks with 7-, 8- and 9-inch displays on the market.
But as netbooks have grown in popularity, so too have their screen sizes. Sony itself offers a 10-inch netbook. Dell decided recently to discontinue its 12-inch netbooks. That said, some companies, like HP, Acer, and Asus have enjoyed strong sales on their larger netbooks.
Comparing those products to ultraportables becomes even more difficult as we consider their specs. netbooks have Intel Atom processors. Ultraportables have Intel Atom processors. Ultraportables are starting to add 3G networking. Netbooks have 3G networking. At this point, even the price differences between the two product categories are so slight that it's difficult for anyone to tell a difference.
So while the name of the product might not matter, it's what it does that will matter. Company needs are changing. At one point, the idea of any company not using a desktop in their operation was outlandish.