For me the era of the netbook is a mixed but mostly happy one. I remember the sales guy trying to convince me that they were such low end computers that they couldn't do much of anything. Compared to my six year old laptop that was depending on how you count sold out models, either the second or cheapest one at Best Buy: the 1015PE was sufficiently capable for my programming needs.
Encountering Windows 7 Starter Edition made me accuse the operating system of cheating for how quick the suspend and resume worked compared to my old laptop. While adjusted for age the Atom wasn’t drastically different from my old Sempron: it did come with modern buses and standards like DDR2. So for all practical invents and purposes it worked really well as long as you weren’t multitasking several heavy tasks, at which point the Ubuntu setup I had installed would become quite lathargic from the lack of resources.
In fact one of the reasons I loved the Transformer Pad EeePC that replaced my netbook was how smoother Android on a Tegra 2 handled multitasking than the Atom N450. The other reason was insane battery life able to handle a cross continent journey by air, while my x86 netbook couldn’t make it past the first flight when being used as little more than a high tech typewriter.
While my opinion of Chrome OS is a bit harsher than my view of netbooks, I find it interesting how technology grew from there. Chromebooks proved of all you really wanted to do was run a browser then the netbook concept was a superb form factor for typing and surfing. Meanwhile Apple’s iPad and various far more affordable Android powered tablets came to prove that you could do plenty of you didn’t need to run a bunch of old Windows software.