Is a laptop a notebook?

Laptop. Notebook. These two terms are used practically interchangeably in the industry, but are they the sane thing, and why don’t they use just one. Is it a laptop, or is it a notebook?

Answer: Laptops and notebooks are the same category, and the terms are interchangeable.

The why

At the start of the portable computer era, the term of choice was “Laptop”. Companies wanted to convey a sense of portability and lightness, (i.e so light, you can use it on your lap). The term was popularly used by computer companies up until the early 2000s.

Laptop computers generate incredible heat. They’re small, poorly ventilated, and with several components that can reach well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. After a series of incidents where laptops caused serious lap burns, and even sterility in extreme cases, lawsuits began to emerge, suing computer companies for implying that the computers would be safe for use on laps.

To protect their butts from litigation, and huge settlements, computer companies began referring to laptops as notebooks instead. So what is a notebook? Notebooks implied the same portable convenience as the original term, without the liability of saying it was safe for lap use.

Laptop is still by far the more common term amongst consumers, and many retailers still use the term to categorize portable computing products, but most computer companies have made the permanent swap to “notebook”. The difference becomes less and less important though, as experts like Boinx Software CEO Oliver Breidenbach predict the end of the PC in favor of tablets.

Michael Sitver

Michael Sitver is a technology insider who has been blogging about technology since 2011. Along the way, he's interviewed founders of innovative startups, and executives from fortune 500 companies, and he's tried dozens or hundreds of gadgets. Michael has also contributed to works featured in Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the associated press. Michael also occasionally consults, and writes for Seeking Alpha and Yahoo News.

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