Contrary to the opinions expressed above, I have to say that a netbook or its equivalent has become more or less essential equipment for someone like me, who travels a lot on business, and needs regular access to the interweb.
Much as I dislike the term, I guess I have to count myself as a corporate 'road warrior'. I use that term to mean someone who spends a lot of time travelling and needs access to information and to technology whilst, 'on the road." I connect to the web in hotels and airports. I write in my hotel room and while travelling on aeroplanes and trains.
One of the drawbacks of the term is the implication that the travelling is done by road. That is to say in a car.
I rarely use my car for travel. I use planes, trains, trams and taxis.
Also, given the increasing tendency for airlines to lose checked-in bags and damage those which they do not lose, I try to carry everything I need in my hand baggage.
For the last few years the weight limit for hand baggage on a cattle-class flight has varied from around 5kg up to 10 kg. Nowadays those limits have been lifted and there is no EU-wide policy on hand bag weights.
BA, my least favourite airline limits passengers to 23 kg. I'm not fool enough to carry that kind of weight around, so the practical limit for a hand bag is the amount I feel comfortable carrying. That's around 15 kg.
Because of these constraints I have, for over a decade, sought out laptops which weigh around a kilo.
In the early days this was impossible. My company issued me with their standard Dell unit which weighed in at around 3 kg, even without a battery. Add the battery, power brick, adapters and other add-ons, and the total weight came to 5 kg or so.
With a bag weighing a couple of kilo, that left me with only a couple of kg for clothes, a washbag, and other equipment needed for the visit.
The result of that was that I simply did not take laptop with me. It was too big and too heavy. Instead I preferred to use the hotel business centre which charged some extortionate rate for a couple of hours on a rented machine. Or, simply did the work when I got back to the office.
When the time came to replace the dusty old laptop which I never used, I persuaded the company to give me a budget and let me buy my own choice of machine.
My topmost, highest priority was Portableness.
I searched everywhere for something that offered reliable internet access for emails and web browsing and a good, tactile keyboard large enough to type properly. My investigations took me through top-line PDA machines, with external keyboards, to heavyweight laptops with all the power one could need.
I found a now-discontinued model made by JVC, the mini-note MP-XP731. This was the fore-runner of the modern Netbook.
It weighed 0.9 kg without a battery, and had a low specification in terms of memory, disk space and so on. The DVD re-write drive was external, and needed its own power supply, but I think I only used that a few times. If I needed to install software, I loaded the disk up on another computer and copied the files across the network.
The point, however, was that I took that little laptop with me everywhere and used it intensively. I think whenever we men compared the size of our equipment, it was the only thing to gain kudos for being tiny.
Although the price was higher (for a much lower spec) than the corporate standard, my employers got a massive return on their investment, as I took the thing everywhere and worked in the evenings, instead of simply watching TV and spending their money on phone calls home.
When that came up for renewal, I used the same approach to buy a Dell 420. This is a bit heavier at 1.5 kg with battery, but it is still easily portable enough to carry around, even including the charging brick.
The point of this lengthy response is that even low-spec computers are nowadays powerful enough to do pretty much everything a business traveller needs. In the past, we have seen laptop makers prioritise power and large displays over portability.
My guess was that corporate buyers thought their employees needed power, and that since many laptops come around 3 Kg, that sort of weight must be acceptable. It is not.
The netbook phenomenon simply recognises that a significant population favours portability over power.
I'll keep the Dell for a couple more years, but my next purchase will almost certainly be a netbook of some description. I'd hope for 50 GB or so of solid state memory; a keyboard large enough to be used for fast typing and internet access as routine. If it weighs less than 1kg and has good battery life, I'll buy it. If the cost is one fifth of the amount I paid for each of my last two mini-laptops, my employer will be happy.
It is quite possible that I'll be using videoconferencing more in the future. For that I'll keep the powerful Mac in the office. But I still think I'll be travelling, and for that, I need a lightweight, small and convenient machine which can easily manage emails, web browsing and text editing.
I need a netbook, even if that is not what it is called.