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Netbook or notebook? A majority of consumers can't tell the two apart.

By Matthew Shaer / June 23, 2009

Pop quiz, hot shot: Is this a netbook or a notebook? A new consumer poll from NPD reveals that 60 percent of consumers who purchased a netbook (such as this one) instead of a notebook thought their netbook would have the same functionality as a notebook. Tongue twister!

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And we can't exactly blame them. Maybe it's the matching suffixes, but those two words do sound an awful lot alike.

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For the record, a netbook is a pint-sized gadget used primarily for surfing the web. These machines are often powered by low-energy chips such as Intel's Atom; they typically weigh in under three pounds. And netbooks have become extremely popular in recent months – ABI Research has estimated that nearly 35 million netbooks could ship in 2009.

A notebook, on the other hand, is a plain old, garden-variety laptop. They can be big or small, but are often more high-powered than a netbook. If you close your eyes and picture a laptop, for instance, you're probably imagining a notebook. To reiterate: Apple's successful MacBook Pro is a notebook, while the Acer Inspire One is a netbook.

Oops

It looks easy enough on paper, but in practice, telling netbooks and notebooks apart can be quite difficult. So says NPD, a market research firm, which today released the results of a poll of approximately 600 consumers. According to NPD, "60 percent of consumers who purchased a netbook instead of a notebook thought their netbooks would have the same functionality as notebooks."

That's a mouthful, eh? Here's the translation: A whole lot of folks bought a bright and shiny netbook, only to discover the pretty little gizmo was a little... underpowered. Needless to say, these consumers were a little disgruntled. Only 58 percent of consumers who bought a netbook instead of a notebook said they were very satisfied with their purchase, NPD reports, compared to 70 percent of consumers who planned on buying a netbook right from the get-go.

Implications

“We need to make sure consumers are buying a PC intended for what they plan to do with it,” Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, said in a statement. "Retailers and manufacturers can’t put too much emphasis on PC-like capabilities and general features that could convince consumers that a netbook is a replacement for a notebook. Instead, they should be marketing mobility [and] portability.”

In other words, computer manufacturers could afford to be a little more clear when it comes to marketing language. That's something we can all get behind.

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