A Computer for the Price of a Cell Phone

Netbooks as Companions Not Replacements

"In general, this is a companion product to notebooks or desktops," Ted Clark, senior vice president and general manager of Hewlett Packard's Notebook Global Business Unit, told ABCNews.com. "What we're seeing is that this is more of a market expansion opportunity. It's difficult to judge cannibalization."

Clark emphasized that if you need to work with spreadsheets or you want to use your netbook to watch movies, you might be out of luck.

People who think the netbook can be their primary computer now, might feel disappointed several months down the road, he said. As for the growth in netbook sales, Clark said, in this economic climate, "I would contend that those folks wouldn't be out shopping if not for the notebook."

Netbooks Lower the Theshold

However, even if netbooks aren't positioned to replace laptops and desktops, experts said that their impact may still be felt in the long-term.

They may not be as powerful as larger computers, but netbooks have awakened consumers to the realization that they can get a real, not toy, computer, for as little as $300.

"What netbooks have done is change the threshold," said Lance Ulanoff, editor in chief of PC magazine.

If you're a gamer or a graphic designer, he said, the netbook would not be able to keep up with your computing demands.

But for many others, "netbooks will be your entry-level laptop," said Ulanoff. "Clearly there's a concern and maybe there's a bit of reality that we're looking at the new normal and that there's no going back from this."

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