In recent years, netbook computers have been growing in popularity because of low prices and smaller sizes, compared with traditional desktop PCs, laptops and notebooks. What was already relatively small (laptops and notebooks) has gotten smaller. At first glance, a netbook computer looks very similar to its notebook and laptop cousins. And just as the smaller size sets a notebook apart from a laptop, even smaller sizes set netbooks apart from other mobile computers. Netbooks tend to have screens smaller than 12 inches (30.5 centimeters), and they often weigh only a pound or two (less than a kilogram). In fact, the earliest netbooks that hit the market had screens that were only 7 inches (17.8 centimeters) diagonally.
But while notebooks and laptops offer roughly equivalent computing features, such as processing power and hard disk space, netbooks are less powerful than either. That's because netbooks are not intended to be a person's primary computing device or to be able to do all of the things a laptop, notebook or a desktop computer can do. Netbook computers are intended to be used in conjunction with Internet-based cloud computing networks that do a lot of your processing and storage for you. That's why they can get away with using processors that aren't as powerful as the other devices.
Netbooks have not been around and in steady demand for terribly long – only since around 2007 -- and already the computing niche has received stiff competition from a yet newer breed of computer: the tablet. Apple's iPad, and newer tablet offerings from players such as Amazon, with its Kindle Fire, and Barnes & Noble with its Nook, present a similar level of portability at prices that can compete with netbooks. Analysts are predicting the netbook may well be on the way out, thanks to these newer kids on the block [source: Crothers].
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