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Evolution of the Netbook

Netbooks have become big news despite--or perhaps because of--the small packages they come in. Elsewhere we look at the current cream of the netbook crop (see "Top 5 Netbooks" [a chart] and "Top 5 Netbooks in Photos" [a slide show]), offer advice on what to look for in buying a netbook (see "Netbooks: All About the New Ultraportables"), and preview some of the the newest members of this category (see "Six New and Notable Netbooks" [another slide show]). But these devices didn't spring fully miniaturized out of the head of Zeus. Today's netbooks are the most recent in a long line of petite but increasingly functional computers. Too small to be laptops and too big to be handhelds, these machines have quietly evolved as vendors sought an identity and a market niche for them. Here are a few of the milestone systems along the way to the modern netbook.

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