If there is anything that technologists will remember about 2008--other than the possible impending economic collapse--is that it's the year of the netbook. [1] I wouldn't be the first person to say that there's very little new about the netbook, but it's also true that there have been a number of advancements in the web and in browsers, and in wifi availability have given this development the critical mass that it needs to really catch on. And it is.

Before I get to the pragmatic stuff about netbook usage, on the theoretical level I think netbooks present an interesting and expansive possibility for Linux-based systems. It's weird since Linux is really designed to be server software, but it works really well for a device like a net book, but I think the modularity and adaptability of the platform is a huge strength in this area.

But I do have two pragmatic questions about netbooks:

First off, What's the best netbook for older users? I have someone in mind who's lamented after my laptops for a while. I'm actually leaning towards the OLPC X-0 which is more than a year old now, but it's durable, nifty and functional. The Acer One seems to be the default recommendation otherwise, even if the HP mininotes are the ones that I personally like the best.

Secondly, are we to a point that one of these notebooks could replace my laptop? Day-to-day I use my laptop in a very netbookish manner, but I need to be able use it as my primary computer for a couple weeks. Even though I got a new computer this summer, it's clear that my laptop is going to be needed to feed the family's obsolescence cycle sooner rather than later and while I'm leaning toward a Lenovo 12 inch ThinkPad/tablet, it is an open debate.

On the one hand, a netbook would be nice and small and portable, and it certainly would do everything that I needed it to do, but I don't know how comfortable it would be to use for long stretches, and having something that could be a tablet from time to time would be quite good. At the same time, the price can't quite be beat.

Thoughts? Debate?

[1]Netbooks, are generally small (under 12 inches diagonal) laptop computers that are intended to sacrifice speed and power for smaller size, lower price, and more portability. This might seem like a lousy trade, but the truth is that we've reached a point where most users--even, or especially, power users--don't need super charged computers for their day-to-day use, and as a result a small, light cheap computer that's pretty good for most things.