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Netbooks, smart phones: Is more convergence ahead for mobiles?

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But a big gap in size remains. Netbooks fit in a large purse or a backpack, but not a pocket. That is leading to speculation that a company such as Apple might step in with a mid-sized “tablet” or “iPod-plus” device as early as next month. (Hence the need for those big-pocket pants.)

Smart phones – such as the BlackBerry, which is aimed at business users, and Apple’s iPhone, which is designed for consumers – offer many but not all the features of a computer in a pocket-sized device. Users can surf the Web, read e-mail, and do a number of other things depending on what applications are loaded. And, yes, the phones make calls.

Netbooks – with 7- to 10-inch screens – sport relatively puny processing power but enough oomph to handle most things people want to do on a laptop, such as check e-mail and surf the Web.

While many people would cringe at typing a long document using tiny smart-phone keys or a touch screen, netbooks have full, if sometimes crowded, keyboards. Which is not to say that smart phones can’t win a short typing sprint. CNET’s British gadget blog filmed a typing contest between an iPhone and a netbook with the volunteer typist riding in a race car going 80 m.p.h. around a track. The iPhone, with its predictive typing feature cleaning up some of the mess, tapped out “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” much more accurately.

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