The netbook is not an altogether easily defined term and in this day and age the variants make it even harder to distinguish. For example is a Tablet PC a netbook? Is a mobile phone handset like Nokia’s N900 a Tablet PC? It’s not a cut and dry explanation sometimes. But this being ‘Netbook Week’ here at good old Tech2, we had a few curious people wanting to know where exactly does the Netbook fit in the new age of the Tablet PC and the Mobile Phone.

The answer is, I don’t know. The truth is it works out to a matter of preference actually as the new addition to mobile computing, the Tablet, is actually a combination of both a mobile handset and a netbook. Here’s a timeline of all three devices that could at least help us understand, what came first.

Short History of Mobile Computing
The first mobile handset was developed way back in the 1940’s. Obviously it wasn’t as sophisticated as today’s devices but for that period it was the height of telecommunications. However it wasn’t until 1973 that the first generation mobile handset, manufactured by Motorola, was tried and tested and the first mobile phone call was made. And here we are today.

Next came the Laptop which is also termed as the ‘Notebook’ because of its small notebook like design. Somewhere in the early 1970’s the first portable personal computer made an appearance. In 1975 IBM launched the first commercially available portable computer.

The Tablet PC was actually a concept designed way back in 2001. Microsoft designed the XP Tablet PC edition to work on a model developed by HP that required a stylus to function. It was actually a laptop that had a dual input system as it offered a swivel screen that was touch sensitive and also had a normal laptop keyboard. The Tablet PC has had a tremendous overhaul and has made a grand comeback with the iPad and others soon to make an appearance.

So finally we come to the netbook. One could argue that the very first Netbook or cheap Laptop was the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child Association, Inc.) CM1, that was designed for NGOs (Non Profit Organizations) back in 2005. It was priced at just $100 and that made the PC manufacturers rethink the whole notebook idea. In an endeavor to make their own versions of affordable personal portable computers the idea of the Netbook came about. In the very simplest of terms the Netbook is a smaller Laptop/Notebook.

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