In this crashing economy, it also helps that inexpensive, relatively powerful ultra-mobile PCs and netbooks remain a feasible buy for parents and students, as well as for mobile professionals who need more than a smartphone to stay connected.
CTL's IL1 netbook, with its 7" LCD, 5-hour battery, and built-in Wi-Fi, is designed for checking e-mail and surfing the Web on the go.
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As a rapidly evolving technology, these devices carry several monikers, which are rather loosely defined. Ultra-mobile PCs and mobile Internet devices are the smallest of the bunch, weighing less than 2 pounds, with up to 7-inch touch screens and integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
They are unlikely to have a physical keyboard, instead relying on a virtual keyboard on the touch screen. The main distinction between UMPCs and MIDs seems to be that UMPCs have a Windows operating system, while MIDs run Linux.
Netbooks and mini notebooks look much like a regular notebook PC that stumbled upon Alice's shrinking potion, in both size and feature set. Their displays max out at around 10 inches, they generally cost under $500 (although high-end models are starting to emerge as true notebook competitors), and they weigh up to 4.5 pounds.
None of these definitions are set in stone, but what is certain is that all of these devices are optimized for accessing the Web, e-mail, and cloud-based applications like Google Docs (although many can run traditional productivity software).
Pop Skype on them and you have the best of all worlds -- a simulated smartphone that excels at surfing the Web. Most of them are marketed toward students as a primary PC and mobile professionals as a secondary computer to use on the road, according to Gartner and IDC.
They are rapidly gaining market share, with Gartner predicting that 5.2 million mini notebooks will be sold in 2008, 8 million in 2009, and up to 50 million in 2012. With these stats, it's no wonder that traditional PC makers like Acer, Dell, and Lenovo are joining pioneers Asus and MSI in bringing UMPCs, MIDs, and netbooks to market.
To view photos of netbooks, UMPC,s and mini-notebooks, click here.