Netbooks are all over CES like pinstripes on Munchkins. Everywhere I look here are tiny little rigs with awkward little keyboards and track pads the size of an Equal packet.
I need to be honest, up until about a month ago I was entirely unaware of netbooks, itty-bitty computers designed primarily for web and media tasks. But once I had a label to put to these things I started to notice them everywhere, in the airport, at Starbucks, in teens school backpacks. They were everywhere and I'd simply missed it.
Here at CES I can't get away from the things and I've probably seen 100 new models here that cover every personal preference from Euroslick to Anime. In fact the netbooks I'm seeing here look more like fashion accessories than productivity tools. Sure, some folks are definitely treating them as smaller, more portable laptops that enable them to work on the road. Still I'm looking at a product offering that seems to treat these newer netbooks more like a really powerful iPhone and that's looking like where this niche is headed: a purchase as the Nth computer in the house to place under the kitchen cabinet or in Jimmy Jr's messenger bag.
Intel looks like they are jumping on this niche powerfully and deliberately. The Atom processor is specifically targeted at netbooks and their new (still in beta) app store is explicitly aimed here. Their app store in particular underscores how people are using these machines, forgoing the all-things-at-a-time approach and instead looking for a single-threaded experience. After all, it's what the tiny screen real estate requires.
All in all, my personal preference will likely stay with my iPhone for mobile apps, and my laptop for things like writing this post? I find the netbook keyboards just a little too small for my hands. But there is a lot of energy and innovation being poured into this category and I expect it to lead to some very cool things.