ViewSonic makes a netbook, but why?

On December 18, ViewSonic will release an uninspired, overpriced, me-too netbook. It’s a lesson in how not to create and market a product.

First, a look at the ridiculous marketing copy: “It’s not a toyish laptop that barely computes, but a technology feat with stunning style and beauty,” ViewSonic says of the VNB102, without a trace of irony. “Forget about yesterday’s laptops, and think again about how VNB102 could change your everyday life.”

It’s funny to read those claims once you’ve looked over the netbook’s specs. Let’s start with the processor, an Intel Atom N270. This is an old processor, slower than Intel’s Atom N280, and certainly not part of the chip maker’s upcoming Pine Trail platform. Laugh, then, when ViewSonic calls this “Intel’s latest.”

ViewSonic-VNB102

The rest of the specs are unremarkable: 1 GB of RAM, a 160 GB hard drive, 802.11 b/g (but not n), a 0.3-megapixel Web cam and a 10-inch, 1024-by-600 resolution screen, which for some reason ViewSonic says is 16:9 widescreen (do the math). Oddly, ViewSonic also boasts the ability to use the netbook as a second screen to a bigger monitor, which any self-respecting netbook should do anyway. The 6-cell battery lasts an advertised six hours, which is fine, but not at the top of its class.

This netbook is also referred to as “thin” and “stylish,” for reasons unexplained. There’s no aluminum or other premium parts, just a standard plastic build with the same glossy lid you’ll find in almost every other netbook on the market. ViewSonic calls the frame “thin,” but at 1.1 inches, it’s on par with offerings from Asus and HP.

With all that in mind, perhaps the most insulting thing about the ViewSonic VNB102 is its $400 price tag. Asus’ Eee PC 1005HA with Windows 7 Starter costs the same, but has longer battery life and a better processor. Dell’s Mini 10v, again with Windows 7 Starter, costs $309 and has roughly the same specs.

Maybe I shouldn’t let this ViewSonic netbook get me bent out of shape, but the last thing the netbook market needs is another soulless entrant, especially when it’s marketed as something better.