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A Netbook By Any Other Name Is Just Plain Silly

What is going on with companies and their distaste for the term netbook? Clearly this is a market that will be important. Intel is already seeing netbooks cannibalize 20 percent of notebook sales. That's one big chunk of business. So you could understand how vendors of all stripes want in on the fun and, hopefully, market domination. Only the rebranding and repositioning in the market is really sounding goofy.

Microsoft, which of late had seemed to have its mojo working in general, is once again sounding as though it wants to win the 1990-IBM Medal for Ineffective Marketing. Apparently the folks in Redmond want netbooks to be called "low cost small notebook PCs." Let me guess -- they also want to change the name of the optical mouse to "photon-activated hand-directed planar location indicator."

Microsoft isn't the only one at this. As my colleague Michael Hickins noted on Monday, Qualcomm also seems to be in the rebranding camp, trying to get netbooks redubbed smartbooks. And he thinks -- rightly too, I'd guess -- that Apple is also likely to eschew the netbook tag.

In most of the cases, the rebranding attempts are caused by money concerns. You've never heard of companies trying to call laptops something else, largely because they were making pretty good money on them. But netbooks capitalize on lower user requirements, which means lower consumer perception of value. Put differently, people don't want to pay a lot for that netbook. The only way that happens is if everyone connected to the final product makes proportionately less money. Bummer.

So lots of companies are scrambling to find some other ground in hopes of increasing perceived value and, as a result, the size of the price tag. Unfortunately, a netbook by any other name is likely to smell just as cheap.

But, really. Low cost small notebook PCs? Does someone actually get paid to come up with these phrases? Oh, sorry: collective expressions of minimal thought through architected arrangement of letters.

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