Updated on August 23 at 6:45 a.m. PDT: adding updated $299 price of Toshiba laptop.
Netbooks based on Intel's Atom processor faced a fresh assault this week: the $279 AMD-based Acer laptop.
Here's the $299--or this case, the $279---question: do you want a Netbook or a Notebook?
The choice: a Netbook with a 10-inch screen, an Intel Atom processor, no optical drive, and Windows XP that weighs about two pounds? Or, a notebook with a 15.6-inch screen, a higher-performance AMD or Intel processor, an optical drive, and Windows Vista that weights about six pounds?
On Wednesday, Best Buy was offering an Acer laptop (AS5516-5474) that had been previously listed at $299.
A Best Buy salesperson in a Southern California store said these deals typically last a week.
The specifications: an AMD Athlon TF-20 64 processor, 15.6-inch WXGA display, 2GB DDR2 memory, DVD-RW drive, 160GB hard disk drive, ATI Radeon Xpress 1200 graphics, 802.11b/g wireless, 10/100 Ethernet LAN, and Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic Edition.
Pretty close to basic mainstream-laptop hardware with the exception of the low-end AMD-ATI silicon and the older "g" wireless.
It weighs in at 6 pounds and measures 1.5-inches thick.
Earlier this month, Best Buy was offering a $299 Toshiba laptop sporting a 15-inch screen but then bumped the price up to $329.
Update: As of August 23, the price of the Toshiba Satellite with an Intel Celeron Processor (Onyx Blue, model: L305-S5955) had been cut to $299. The laptop showed wide availability, as of August 23.
But whether it's a $279, $299, or $329, it's a laptop design that has legs. And a real competitor to the 10-inch Netbook, which costs about the same.
And here's another question: As more of these $279-$329 deals are seen at Wal-Mart and Best Buy and as more ultra-thin laptops appear that approach $600 in price, what will happen to the popularity of the Netbook?