A short history of netbooks by Wired magazine

Wired recently did a great story on how and why netbooks became last year’s big tech trend. “The Netbook Effect: How Cheap Little Laptops Hit the Big Time” starts with the OLPC and ends with cloud computing. It explains why these little laptops defy every rule in the business, and why many of the big brands were late to jump on the bandwagon.

…Netbooks violate all the laws of the computer hardware business. Traditionally, development trickles down from the high end to the mass market. PC makers target early adopters with new, ultrapowerful features. Years later, those innovations spread to lower-end models.

But Jepsen’s design trickled up. In the process of creating a laptop to satisfy the needs of poor people, she revealed something about traditional PC users. They didn’t want more out of a laptop—they wanted less.

While the are a few factual errors in the article (MSI did have a laptop business prior to its first netbook), this is the best article I’ve seen on the netbook phenomenon. Recommended.