But after Hewlett-Packard introduced its 2133 Mini-Note netbook for consumers and schools last year, "we did get quite a bit of interest from the business sector," said Kyle Thornton, category manager for business notebook PCs at HP.
In response, HP last month launched the Mini 2140, a renamed second-generation system that includes a variety of features developed with business users in mind. For instance, the high-end version of the 2140 comes with a six-cell battery that HP claims can last up to eight hours, or the equivalent of a full business day, on a single charge.
All of the 2140 models, which start at $499, sport a 10-in. screen with resolution of up to 1366 by 768 - the same as on a 32-in., 720p high-definition TV, according to Thornton. They also include an accelerometer designed to protect disk drives against data loss if a system is dropped, and HP says the machines' batteries can be recharged to 90% capacity within 90 minutes. "We're not peddling some cheap, plasticky toy," Thornton said.
He added that although tight capital-equipment budgets are slowing PC purchases at many companies in these recessionary times, the relatively low price tags of netbooks should enable users to sneak them in under the radar. "If a sales vice president wants to get 20 $600 netbooks at a time, that is well within the signature authority of many executives," Thornton said.
Rival vendors are responding. Asus, as Asustek is commonly known, earlier this month announced an Eee PC 1000HE model with a specified battery life of up to 9.5 hours, although the system has yet to become available. Meanwhile, netbook market leader Acer is reportedly readying enterprise models of the Aspire One with larger screens and longer battery life.
Meeting Basic Needs
But for end user Gabriele Indeiri, the original Eee PC 701 from Asus already fits the bill for the limited number of applications he needs to run as part of his job as an account manager at a US-based software vendor.
"I'm usually at customers' sites, and I have just a few basic needs: read e-mail, use Salesforce.com and be able to show PowerPoints to customers, which I can do via my Eee's VGA port," said Indeiri, who asked that his employer not be named. A plus for the netbook is that it weighs only a shade over two pounds. "The [lack of] weight in my bag makes a difference," Indeiri said.