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I am back in the market for a laptop and willing to get rid of my too small to type on Asus EEE PC 1000 and my overweight Samsung R60+ (3kg plus adaptor), acquired because I had to type.

Recently, I finally laid hands on the Samsung NC20 (favourable Wired review here; video here). It’s the best netbook I’ve seen yet. The keyboard is just about OK. All in all it’s ok, but somehow it didn’t really speak to me.

However, I only got to see a white one with the sort of plastic I am sure would be grubby-looking in a few weeks. Somehow I just couldn’t quite bring myself to buy it.

I think I have tried every keyboard of every kind of laptop and netbook for sale in London. Most are unspeakable and they are getting worse.

Lenovo, it seems, make the best keyboards but their laptops are overpriced and their only netbook is an undistinguised horror, a me-too product with a keyboard for people with square fingers. It hasn’t shown that it realizes that the market has changed forever (how it happened). According to Tim Bajarin laptops over $1,ooo are now a dead category. Here he is on what’s next: 12 and 13 inch machines with double the resolution and memory of netbook PCs, at a few hundred dollars more.

None are available yet. The first in the UK will likely be the MSI X340 and X320 machines (video), which resemble more affordable Macbook Air computers. Supposedly they’ll be on sale in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Lenovo is asking for comments on what it should do about the netbook category on its design blog.

A black ThinkPad machine like the Samsung NC20, weighing 1.5kg or less, with quality keyboard would already be very tempting. It must have an all day battery, must run Ubuntu (and Windows 7), have 802.11n Ethernet and Bluetooth, a non-glare touch screen, and it should run COLD and quiet. Not just do most machines, even very expensive ones like the Macbook Air, now have crappy keyboards many of them run HOT, including Lenovo’s S10.

Beyond specs, however, I think the right thing to do is to take a leaf from Apple’s iPhone book and rent these devices on a subscription that provides an incentive to upgrade to a later model.

Options like online backup, insurance, location tracking and remote reformatting will be where the money is… services, not hardware. If you lose one it would be nice to trigger a reformat and get a replacement delivered by courier.

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