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CIO - Netbook sales will likely grow by 50% in the next two years, according to research firm IDC, but the gadgets will need some more bells and whistles to gain popularity inside enterprises, say IT professionals.
At this point, most enterprise IT managers we've talked to say they don't want low-powered, lightweight netbooks as primary devices, mainly because these little laptops are & well & too little, with unreliable connectivity and security features. They are better served as secondary machines for workers who travel frequently, say IT managers.
Yet netbook features will keep evolving at a price point irresistable to any IT pro. Also, as more corporate data moves to the cloud and is available on the Web to mobile users, netbooks will have a better chance to pass muster with enterprise IT managers, say industry analysts.
This could happen sooner rather than later, as netbook manufacturers are starting to release netbooks with a bigger screens, more built-in wireless connectivity options such as Bluetooth and 3G, and longer battery life.
Many of the netbook features that IT pros wish for are already available - just not all on the same machine.
Here's what IT managers have to say about the ideal netbook:
Bigger Screen and Keyboard
A common gripe among IT managers: netbooks aretoo small, even for mobile workers who only require basic functions such as Web browsing and e-mail.
Stephen Laughlin, Director of IT at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, says he would consider moving some users to netbooks once they have bigger hard drives, keyboards and screens.
"Even road warriors may not want to look at a small screen or type on a small keyboard, but this could change in the future."
"People have adjusted to using iPhones, Blackberrys, and other small devices, so the adaption from laptop to netbook could be coming," he adds.
The wish for larger displays seems to already have been heard by vendors. Manufacturer Acer just released a version of its Aspire One line with an 11.6 inch screen and a full-size keyboard, both firsts for a netbook.
Better Wireless Connectivity
While all netbooks have built-in Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, most only have the bare-bones Wi-Fi protocol (802.11b or g) and not the much faster 802.11n. This may be acceptable for unfussy consumers, but is unacceptable for an enterprise that demands ultra-reliable wireless Internet connectivity.
"Netbook enterprise users will be mobile so reliable means of connecting to the Internet and VPN are paramount and reliability - especially because they are often away from the office and service personnel - becomes key," says Michael Boyer, VP of global IT for Fiberlink, a mobile security software company.
Bluetooth for exchanging data between devices, along with Wi-Fi, is also a must for netbooks, Boyer adds.
Markus Hill, VP of technology at construction company Rodgers Builders in North Carolina, agrees with Boyer about the importance of reliable wireless, and wants his enterprise netbooks to be light as a feather and super-connected.