"A lot of people have described the netbook as a notebook that gets returned," Baker says. "That's going to be the case for a little while."
Keeping customers happy will mean offering them an experience that is satisfactory and distinct from that of a full-fledged laptop, something PC makers are trying to do by tightening the link between the netbook and the Internet.
Dell has teamed up with Box.net, an online storage firm, to create a special service for owners of its Mini 9: the netbook includes 2GB of free online storage, expandable, for a fee, to 25GB.
European telecom firm Vodafone (VOD) has announced it will sell the Mini 9 directly at its stores with built-in broadband wireless connectivity. The company has yet to announce pricing, though the deal suggests that the Mini 9 may be available at a cheaper, subsidized price, similar to cell phone plans, when consumers sign-up for a service contract.PC vendors have toyed with subsidized plans before, with little success. The rules of the game may now have changed.