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Netbook Confusion with Consumers?



I was out doing some Christmas shopping today and dropped by the local Staples. Thinking I’d check to see if our local Staples was carrying Netbooks I headed to the computer section and sure enough they had the HP L1010NR on sale for $359.98. There was also a crowd of several folks around looking at the Netbook.

One of the women in the small crowd (about 7 folks) was telling folks not to buy the device because it did not have a DVD drive. She had just returned one and was looking for a ““real computer". I politely offered that you Netbooks didn’t come with optical drives as these devices were meant to access the Internet primarily. Another gentleman chimed in and wondered why they would sell anything without a DVD drive these days. One other gentleman picked up a ticket and headed to the cash register.

When I got a chance to put my hands on it, it seemed like quite a snappy little performer, but I’m not a fan of the split button trackpad nor the very glossy case. When I asked a manager how they were selling he said they were selling very well, but that he’d also seen a number of returns. When I asked why, he said because they didn’t have a DVD drive was what he heard the most.

From this anecdotal experience, I’d say that while the price point is obviously attracting attention from consumers, some don’t understand what they are really seeing, or perhaps buying.



  1. Bristolview

    12/20/2008 at 7:40 pm

    Interesting. My last few PC’s didn’t and don’t have DVD drives either. My current X61 has no DVD drive and it’s a solid business performer. I also use a secondary PC; my Motion LS800 and sometimes an OQO Model 02, neither of which have DVD drives. My last notebook, a ThinkPad x31 was a typical notebook and guess what… no DVD there either, in yet another business machine.

    What’s the big deal with a DVD drive? Just playing movies? Most software can be installed without a DVD these days, and when I need, I’ve got a USB external DVD for that. I travel a lot, and just don’t want to carry the extra weight, so I’m happy not to have an internal DVD. Haven’t had one for years, and hardly ever have a use for it. No big. Why is it so important to people?

  2. dave s

    12/20/2008 at 8:39 pm

    enough said :p

  3. GoodThings2Life

    12/20/2008 at 9:02 pm

    Proof keeps coming to light about the realities of netbook ownership. Sure, they’re selling like hotcakes, but that doesn’t mean people are keeping them, and it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily enjoying the experience or buying them for the reasons we think. Earlier in the week, the article about getting them with XP left me believing people just want an inexpensive way of getting an XP license.

    Anyway, it also reveals how ignorant and uninformed most consumers are… they hear a buzz word, rush out to buy it, and are quickly disappointed that it doesn’t have what they really want.

    These things do have a USB port or two right? Why isn’t someone reminding people that inexpensive external DVD drives are available for those times they need it?

  4. schmolch

    12/20/2008 at 9:57 pm

    a.) Its all about the prize
    b.) people are stupid

    Of course these awful generalizations only apply to 90-95% of people.

  5. Osiris

    12/21/2008 at 12:10 am

    And you guys wonder why Tablet PCs and umpc’s are still in the realm of the few and never became mainstream…look at the comments here virtually reducing the problem down to consumer ignorance.

    I would suspect you have alot more to gain getting general consumers on board with things like netbooks and new technology as it would be such a terrible fate for it to eventually lead to a wider dessemination of technology, lower prices and more choice. The horror :\

  6. Ben

    12/21/2008 at 1:31 am

    “wondered why they would sell anything without a DVD drive these days”… i wonder why any computer come with dvd drives these days. the internet and flash cards are so much more convenient. just get a usb dvd drive for the 1 time a year i use it.

    of course, i guess the average consumer is behind the times.

  7. MArco

    12/21/2008 at 1:54 am

    Many people do not serach internet for drivers, so if they connect a printer (scanner,webcam,ecc ecc) and the netbook ask for driver they take the intallation disk ..and…for the average pc user searching say in th HP site (or samsung or another brand)for a printer driveris too much,sometimes is too confusing for an expert the printer came with a cd so the pc must have a cd, simple..for them.
    Many people turn away fron netbook only because on lack of optical drive for that reason in my opinion.

  8. Gavin Miller

    12/21/2008 at 3:15 am

    I think it highlights that for the majority of people, the PC is still just a tool that they buy software for (on CDs and DVDs) and expect to be able to install it.

    The reason WE all love netbooks etc. is because we know enough to make them do the cool things we want them to. The average consumer does not.

  9. Ian Onions

    12/21/2008 at 3:23 am

    People buy stuff on the basis of what it does for them. For example, my 70 year-old mum, just starting out, needs the following. 1-portability round the house 2-email and word-processing 3-a large screen 4-she LIKES using it as a dvd player for movies in the kitchen/bedroom etc.

    she DOESN’T need ultra-portability-her laptop rarely leaves the house-doesn’t need a tiny screen. So she’s quite happy with her basic Fujitsu-Siemens laptop-in fact she loves it-and wouldn’t swap it for the best netbook going-it wouldn’t do what she wants! We have a phrase in England-“Horses for courses”.

  10. Philip Seyfi

    12/21/2008 at 3:52 am

    lol I don’t have a CD/DVD drive even in my computer… not talking about my Latitude XT. Today, one can buy pretty much everything online which makes it useless.

  11. Gavin Miller

    12/21/2008 at 5:32 am

    Very true Philip, but most people don’t know that and still think that all software is purchased on CD/DVD. They’ll know nothing about ‘ripping’ DVDs to DivX either.

    I forget at how little some people still know about computing, especially many of my work colleagues, intelligent professionals, who still only know the basics and if something is a bit different, i.e. no DVD drive, they wouldn’t know where to start!

  12. Frustrated Consumer

    12/21/2008 at 12:44 pm

    “of course, i guess the average consumer is behind the times.”

    That’s a funny statement.

    The ‘average consumer’ is the *definition* of ‘the times’.

    A computer (to most people) includes the ability to play movies on DVDs. A $300/400/500 computer that can’t play movies is waste of money to the average consumer.

  13. Carol A

    12/21/2008 at 5:47 pm

    Having just wasted about half an hour trying to teach a client how to back up his financial work onto a cd (I didn’t even try for a flash drive or external hard drive – he certainly wouldn’t have owned one!) I am not surprised at any level of ignorance. Considering the client is well educated it seems almost laughable that he would keep records on a computer and not back them up somewhere (anywhere!!). Some people seem almost proud of their ignorance of computers, I’ll bet they don’t brag about their inability to drive a car in the same way.

  14. Gordon Cahill

    12/21/2008 at 9:42 pm

    Considering these things are almost exactly the size of a portable DVD player I’m certainly not surprised that the average consumer thinks that they should have one. In fact I use mine as a portable movie player. It’s one of its main functions when I travel. Email, web, movies, music, USB charger. That’s its use. I just know how to rip a DVD from an external drive. That’s the only difference between me and the average Joe.


  15. Allison

    12/22/2008 at 2:36 am

    I’m dying for a netbook. I travel a lot and would love something lighter than my laptop but that can do the core functions.

    Why I care about DVD/CD drives:

    I have a bunch of old software on CD. MS Office, Photoshop Elements, misc drivers for old hardware etc etc. You’d think this wouldn’t be an issue, but:

    A. The major software vendors have a stick up their…noses. JUST TRY downloading one of those programs with an 8 yr old license key onto a new PC. All they want is MORE MONEY from me for upgrades to features I don’t want or need. When they build something new I want, I’m happy to buy.

    B. The old drivers can be an issue. Sometimes you can find them online, but often you can’t. I want my netbook to work with my printer et. al.

  16. Gordon Cahill

    12/22/2008 at 1:17 pm

    Alison, I have ripped every program CD I have as well as ever music and video disc to a 250GB external hard drive. Everything needed to do this is available for free and then you can safely store those precious discs for when you need them. I actually take an entire copy of my perfect system install on an external HDD when I travel so I can restore in an emergency.


  17. Ashley

    12/22/2008 at 11:53 pm

    Haha, I think that lady would have gawked at me if she knew that I would have paid as much as $2000 – $3000 for an ultra-portable computer that size without a DVD drive 3 or 4 years ago.

    I think a lot of it is about perceived value and usefulness. To most people, an optical drive should be a no-brainer for a computer. Even though the optical drives themselves are probably one of the cheaper components, the lack of one seems like a huge feature missing, which to some people might imply that it is a less featureful or a budget model.

    Though, I do have to admit that if you are one who likes to watch DVD movies, etc, then an integrated optical drive is much more friendly than trying to balance a USB drive on your lap… And I do have to admit for myself that one feature I did look for when scouting out laptops and tablets a few years back was an integrated optical drive (which drove my decision to pick a T4010D over an M200).

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