The increasingly popular netbook concept is unlikely to see much acceptance in the enterprise, after analysts dismissed their ability to cope with the demanding work of big businesses, despite increasing uptake in the SMB sector.
"I think acceptance in the enterprise is very small," IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell told The Standard. "In fact, we don't even track that. We do believe about 7 percent of netbooks are going into small business. I don't know of any companies standardising on them."
Gartner predicts that less than 1 percent of netbooks sold globally over the next two years will be shipped to businesses.
Gartner analyst Mika Kitigawa said netbooks aren't acceptable to enterprise-size companies. "They're made cheaply to cut costs, so you're looking at them breaking one or two years down the road. The hinges aren't as strong and the hard drives don't have head-parking protection. Also, most have Windows XP Home or Linux. Upgrading to Windows XP costs more money."
Anecdotally, The Standard found several small business owners who are happy with their netbooks, but only for light work or travel, as analysts predicted. Enterprises were less sure about adoption, citing comfort and power as key concerns.
Dr. John Halamka, CIO of the CareGroup Health System in Boston, told The Standard he was considering the Dell Mini 9 for thin-client computing such as Web- and Citrix-based applications if "the keyboard and screen are large enough." His company has bought one Mini 9, which will undergo six weeks of testing by various teams.
Consultant William Jones said he won't recommend netbooks to his clients, even small companies. "Netbooks have an appealing price and form factor, but if they are not powerful enough to be primary computers, where are users supposed to turn when they need more horsepower?" He sees netbooks as fine for students but a passing fad for professionals.
Peter Ubriaco, owner of New York Information Systems, a software development company, was disappointed with the two Asus EEE PC netbooks he bought for employees. "They're excellent for computing on the go, but were too weak to support work around the office. I definitely do find it useful for email, basic web browsing, instant messaging. But I also need development tools like Eclipse IDE, and it just doesn't feel right running slowly, on a cramped screen."
Ubriaco did, however, recommend an Asus EEE 1000HA to one of his clients, a family-owned tyre store. "They simply wanted a laptop to get them online and that fit in a briefcase. So far they've been very happy with the EEE PC, since it does what they need to do at a reasonable price and inside a tiny footprint."
Heather Lutz, a professional speaker who travels often, also loves the netbook's size. "My Acer Aspire One fits in the front pouch of an airline." She intends to outfit her entire eight-person office with netbooks.
Andy Abramson of the marcom firm Comunicano did the same thing, purchasing over a dozen Asus netbooks for employees who travel. His Acer Aspire One with built-in 3G AT&T broadband is perfect for certain situations. "When I go to dinner or out for coffee, it takes up so little space and handle a lot more than an iPhone or Blackberry can do."