So, the ongoing quest to modernize my parents took an interesting turn over the weekend.
The Macbook Pro arrived at their house earlier than I expected, and I haven’t yet got them squared away with any intertubes. Thinking they might not want to wait, I suggested they unbox it and get acquainted.
Then I got a tough question.
If it’s not connected to the Internet, what does it do?
I fumbled this one. Word processing, games? I don’t really know. Nothing I said seemed very interesting, and they don’t have (or need) any software aside from a browser. So, they seemed content to wait for internets.
It’s an interesting question. What’s the first think you do to a brand new machine? Get it online. Beyond that you might have some software to install, but if you’ve never used a disconnected computer, what good is it without internets?
I guess it makes a stylish paperweight.
This question makes the case for netbooks, which now apparently account for 22.5% of all portable computer sales worldwide, up from 5.6% a year ago. Netbooks aren’t for everyone, and in this particular case, I quickly eliminated them due to size. My parents didn’t want to squint at a tiny screen with tiny font and type on an itty-bitty keyboard. Who does anyway?
This question also makes a case for full web OS, like Google Chrome OS. Some plausible screenshots emerged today, complete with giant icons. I guess the icons need to be that big for use on a tiny netbook.
But why stop at netbooks? Plenty of people out there have the same use case my parents do. They want a portable computer to get online, and they don’t need any locally installable software, just the essentials. This calls into question the need for any full-blown OS like Windows or OS X. If you don’t plan to use 95% of what the OS provides, why pay for it?
This market will develop very quickly, and it will cannibalize the other market segments.
What do you think? Did I miss something obvious that a disconnected laptop can do?
Do you think that a bare-bones OS that comes with a data plan is a viable market? I know some netbooks come with a slimmed-down OS, e.g. Ubuntu Netbook Remix, XP, Windows 7, but these aren’t natively web-only. Is Chrome OS targeting that market? Someone else?
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