I don't consider myself to be a conspiracy theorist. I don't believe that society, the fashion industry, and retailers are secretly colluding to turn us all into mindless, consuming drones. However, I can't help but be a bit annoyed with the latest computing device that we now must have—the netbook.

It started with the desktop computer. The desktop is a powerful, inexpensive, high-performing machine. It's easily upgraded and customized, and can easily be equipped with all the functionality you need. Times were good.

Then came the laptop, which took computing to the next level. People were writing essays, sending emails, and more, all from the local coffee house (without spending outrageous fees on cyber cafes, to boot). Students began using laptops instead of paper and pencil, and the whole world got a lot more efficient. Some people decided they no longer needed a desktop, cutting down electricity bills and saving space—both good things.

Then came the smartphone—a phone and a computer, all in the palm of your hand. You can send twitter updates, text/email messages, surf the web, look up directions, and more—anytime, anywhere. Personally, I have yet to invest in my own smartphone, because of the expensive hardware and data plan. To me, $60/month is already too much for a phone; however, I do understand where a smartphone can be worth every penny to some people.

Finally we have the netbook—the new "must-have" device, a cross between a smartphone and a laptop. The implication with the netbook is that laptops (or notebooks) are not already quite mobile. At one point, that may have been true—in fact, I still own a Compaq that weighs in at about 10 pounds, sporting a 15" screen, internal floppy disk and CD drive, and a host of plugs, including mouse, keyboard, 3 USBs, and plenty more. Lugging around that puppy 24/7 would get quite old, and the chiropractor bills would definitely add up.

But in today's day and age, you can get a great notebook that weighs in at half that Compaq's weight, plus has enough battery life that you don't need an AC adapter all the time. If you ask me, that's plenty mobile. (And if you absolutely need to send an email from the bathroom, you can use your smartphone to do that.)

The bottom line is this: with the exception of very specific cases, having a smartphone and a portable notebook should serve just about anyone's mobile needs. If you happen to have a very specific need for a netbook, then I wish you the best. But for all the rest of you, don't give in to what they tell you. You don't need one, and you don't want one!

For related reading and a contrary viewpoint:
Netbooks: Can They Bridge the Gap Between Mobile Phones and Notebooks?