Nix "netbook"? Hey, Microsoft, what's in a name?

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Last week they tried to remake search. Tuesday they axed the video game controller.

Now it looks like Microsoft is taking this reinventing thing a little too far.

In comments at the Computex conference, Microsoft Application Platform and Development marketing general manager Steven Guggenheimer told reporters his company now plans to refer to netbooks as "low cost small notebook PCs." Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

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The thinking goes like this: today's netbooks are capable of so much more than the machines that came before them, which were, well, for surfing the Internet and not much else. While that's true, many in the blogosphere are calling foul.

"Hey Guggenheimer, on behalf of technology bloggers everywhere, give it up," writes Doug Aamoth at CrunchGear. "We’re not going to type out 'low cost small notebook PC' when 'netbook' has done just fine, thank you. Just because your abnormally long name is eclipsed only by your ridiculously long title doesn’t mean you need to drag us all down with you."

Some, including Gizmodo's John Herrman, allege that the rule rewrite has to do with with Microsoft's desire to push a more expensive version of its Windows 7 operating system:

The thinking is, I guess, that Microsoft would look bad for deeming one notebook as eligible for the discounted [Windows 7 Starter Edition] OS and not another, when the only difference between the two is an inch in screen size or a extra stick of RAM. By changing the term from "netbook" to the more descriptive, performance-aware "low cost small notebook PC," they can base the slim version of Windows 7 around that term's definition—which they are free to write—and avoid clashing with the public's broad preconceptions about what a netbook is.

Awkward names aside, there's some merit to reexamining the definition of the netbook. For evidence there, look at PC World's preview of a netbook that can run both Windows and Android, the Google-backed smartphone OS.

Or, just look at the differences in popular netbooks: A $930 Sony Vaio P "Lifestyle PC" sports an 11.1-inch screen and 60 GB of storage. The screen on Toshiba's just-announced $400 NB205 comes in at 10.1 inches, and is paired with a 160GB hard drive and a staggering 9-hour battery life. Another newbie, the $684 Eee PC T91 from Asus, has an 8.9-inch touchscreen that can fold over for use as a tablet PC, and is backed by a 16 GB solid-state drive.

Further complicating things, Microsoft's assault on the netbook name comes just a day after Intel and Dell settled a trademark dispute over "netbook" with mobile device-maker Psion.

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