Producing Netbooks That Are “Just Good Enough”

Netbooks provide "good enough" computing.Oh really? And that’s good enough to market them?  In his Digital Domain column in the NY Times this morning, Randall Stross quotes an analyst who makes the case for netbooks in this way.

It confuses me. A great company like Hewlett Packard entering into a market niche and self-consciously diluting its brand with a product so cheap you wouldn’t mind if you lost it while traveling. Steve Jobs has said Apple won’t do it. Yet, it’s rumored Apple is working on a netbook. But there is a cottage industry in Apple rumors. It’s part of the mystique of the company.

That’s only one part of my confusion. The other is companies competing on a "just good enough" basis. It seems like a race to the bottom. An HP executive says they want to be present at a price point in a popular shift to netbooks. But surely stepping into this competition comes with a price. And I wonder if the price isn’t erosion of the brand, trust in the line of products across the board and a dilution of confidence. For what? To be present in a marketplace that is equivalent to the shelves of the "Nothing Over a Dollar Store."

No one is making a claim that netbooks are more than just good enough. That’s their selling point, along with price. Some bloggers have even said they will be given away as premiums when you buy a subscription to a digital service. That’s a real throwaway. Wasteful, unhealthy  for the environment and just good enough computing, all in one package. So, no one is being misled.

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s my values. I don’t know. I just don’t get anyone or any product aspiring to be just good enough.

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