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

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!

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

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.


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.


“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.


Netbook or notebook? You don't need to know the difference to follow us on Twitter.

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