Single purpose devices still beat multi-use devices and is the netbook really a good idea?

Zune_HDRecently, I was discussing the merits of netbooks with a good friend of mine.  He recently purchased a Toshiba netbook to replace his now non-functioning Acer netbook.  Curious as to how he uses the netbook, I asked him what kinds of things he did with the device.  His answer coincides with what I’ve heard others say plus a few things unique to this person.  I was a little surprised at just how much he does with such a small-ish device.  His uses of the device got me thinking that, perhaps, such a device might have some use for me as well.

Until now, I’ve sort of been negative about these things.  I am, however, starting to think that maybe, just maybe, they aren’t as useless after all.  It also made me take a look at all of the devices I use on a daily basis.  Some of them I carry around with me quite a bit.

Among the devices I use daily are:


  • Palm Pre smartphone
  • Microsoft Zune HD Media Player
  • HP Laptop
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Desktop computer(s)
  • Comcast DVR
  • Vizio television

These devices I use frequently:

  • Nintendo DS
  • Kodak digicam
  • Nikon 40DX
  • Perseus portable HDTV
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Nintendo Gamecube
  • Microsoft XBOX
  • Sony Playstation 2
  • HP All in one printer

These devices I use once in a blue moon:

  • Palm Zirezire
  • Zipit 2
  • Sonic Impact Video V55 iPod dock and monitor
  • Apple iPod Classic (80gb)
  • other almost useless gadgets 

z2a (Small)From the first list, I always have the Pre with me, no matter what.  When I go to work and on certain local trips, I carry the Zune as well.  The Kindle sees action during some television shows and near bedtime.  The computers see quite a bit of use, often at the same time.  From the second list, the Nintendo Wii probably sees the most use.  On the weekends and for an hour or two every night, I play games with my son.  (The Wii is an awesome console with lots of great software, well worth the investment.)  Of the two cameras, the Kodak is used the most.  From the last list, I use the V55 as an auxiliary monitor and my wife and son use that iPod quite a bit, I almost never touch the thing (the Zune HD is far and away superior, I might add.)  So, you have a decent picture of the gadgets I use.  So what, you ask.  Well, I got to wondering how many of them could be combined and replaced with a single device, like a decent netbook.

The Palm Pre, in theory, SHOULD be able to replace the Zune, laptop (for short trips, that is,) the Nintendo DS, a digital camera, instant messaging device (the Zipit) and the Palm Zire.  Well, it will do all of those things and I do use it alot.  BUT, it has many shortcomings that keep it from replacing all of those things.  The screen is way too small to replace the Kindle.  It, so far, does not play the types of games that the DS can.  While it plays video and mp3 files, it is nowhere near as versatile or easy to use for this purpose, the Zune is much better. Even the old dog poo colored Zune I had was a better media player than the Pre.  It is an OK web browsing device, but does not come close to the utility of the laptop.  It’s camera is OK, but not as good as even the Kodak.  The Pre is capable of video recording, but it is not yet enabled.  So, the Pre does most of this stuff, just not as good as each dedicated device.

Now, lets look at the netbook.  We can rule it out as a phone right away and it is not as handy as a camera.  Two strikes already.  However, the rest of the functions, depending on the netbook, are good fits.  Problem is the size.  The really small ones are difficult for ME to see and use.  Make them much bigger and they lose their advantage and would cost more. 

So, it looks like no one device can pack all of the functionality that I desire and do them well.  This, however, does not rule out getting a netbook.  I could see getting one or even two and leaving one in the car and one in the house.  The one in the car I can take with me on those local trips where I’ll have waits or if I am going to a coffee shop, restaurant, library or some other similar location.  A netbook with at least a seven inch screen and built in WiFi would be ideal for browsing the web and/or checking mail.  I could even do things like edit photos I’ve taken with what ever digicam I have used.  Pretty much anything that does not require a ‘real’ computer (i.e. horsepower.)  Ideally, the netbook would run Windows 7 and I would have Microsoft OneNote installed.  OneNote is perfect for these things. Add in Firefox and you’ve got a terrific general use netbook. 

Of course, I don’t want to pay more than $250 (US) for such a device, so I think I’m out of luck any time soon. 

Actually, for now, between my Pre and my Zune HD, I’m pretty set for short local trips and I don’t mind using the Pre to surf the web.  I love the Zune HD’s screen, so I don’t mind using it to watch video while I’m waiting at, say, a doctor’s office or dentist.  Sometimes, however, I will even take my Kindle since I know I’ll be waiting for awhile (especially when taking wither vehicle in for service.)  In such cases, I’ll have three devices with me which is kind of a pain but they each have a purpose and each serve that purpose better than most multi-use devices.  I’ve yet to see one portable device, the size of the Kindle or smaller, that can do all of this reasonable well.  And, no, I don’t think the iPhone is sufficient and, since it is an AT&T phone, it is out of the question for me anyway.

What devices do you use daily?  How many do you carry with you?  How many do you use at home?  Let us know in the comments.

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