Hewlett-Packard’s new netbook

by Jessica Shambora

On Monday, Pattie’s post centered on two words–“coopetition” and “frenemy”–that have entered our lingo lately. Now let’s talk about a third: netbook. Unless you’re an early adopter, you might not know that netbooks are smaller than regular laptops and designed more for surfing the Web and basic desktop publishing than for storing your files or running complicated programs. They’re also much cheaper than traditional notebooks.

According to IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell, 10.8 million netbooks are expected to be sold this year, accounting for 7.8% of all notebook sales. The 2009 forecast is for 20.8 million, representing 11.1% of the notebook market. The netbook’s cause will surely be bolstered by today’s launch of the HP Mini 1000, a new line of netbooks by the largest maker of PCs, Hewlett-Packard .

Last week a crew from HP stopped by Fortune to show us some some of their new toys, including the sleek black Mini 1000. The external design has certainly come a long way, both from HP’s early notebooks and from some of the first netbooks, which looked a lot more like toys than business tools. Another feature I like was the texturized track-pad, which makes navigating easier sans mouse.

The size is the most impressive aspect. The Mini 100 is less than 1-inch thick and weighing just above two pounds. Its keyboard is 92% the size of a standard notebook keyboard, which could be a plus or a minus depending on the size of your fingers. But the Mini 1000 still gives the impression of a highly capable notebook, running Windows XP Home, and boasting WiFi and Bluetooth wireless capabilities, plus a built-in webcam. It’s priced low at $399 and available today.

Actually HP had already joined the netbook crowd–which includes forerunner Asus, MSI, Acer, Dell , Lenovo and an anticipated release from Samsung–with the quiet launch of the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC this past April. But whereas the 2133 was targeted at the educational market, the Mini 1000 is meant to attract “mobile professionals, always-on social media enthusiasts and fashion forward women.”

“Fashion forward women” refers to the Vivienne Tam edition of the Mini 1000, a vibrant red case with a peony-flower design that supposedly reflects the fashion designer’s Spring 2009 collection. Tam has labeled her netbook the world’s first “digital clutch” as it first appeared on the runway where many mistook it for a purse. Tam’s Mini 1000 also comes with a designer price-tag of $699.

The Tam edition is expected to be available in December, followed in January by the HP Mini 1000 with MIE (Mobile Internet Experience). The MIE version runs Linux and targets consumers focused on Internet functionality (and those who avoid Microsoft operating systems at all costs).

In this fragile economy, predictions for the holiday season are grim for PC makers (more on this from my colleague, Jon Fortt). Still, according to a Consumer Electronics Association study released last week, computers are second on adults’ holiday wish lists (behind “peace and happiness”),  no doubt thanks, in part, to netbooks.

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