Smartphones beating Netbooks in the Mobile Surfing Department

When 27-year-old Kas Tsai wanted to get a mobile Internet device, he picked an Apple iPhone over a low-cost netbook PC. "It just looks better and I can take it out with me when I'm out. The netbook is small, but the keyboard is so cramped and I can't really use it on the go," the biotech student said.

People like Tsai could well decide who wins and loses in a looming war for dominance as Web surfers take their favorite pastime to the wireless realm. Many observers say smartphones could emerge the longer-term victor. With desk-bound PCs fast losing their dominance as the main access point for Web surfing, the race is on between laptops and smartphones to see who will take their place. Many companies aren't taking any chances, with PC companies piling into smartphones and vice versa. PC brands such as Acer and Dell have recently announced or been linked to smartphone launches. Mobile phone leader Nokia is going the other way, with talk of a possible foray into netbooks PCs - the small, cheap laptops good for surfing the Internet or checking emails, but without all the functions of a larger, more expensive computer. The emerging turf wars could lead to greater competition in two already fiercely competitive sectors, causing everyone to take a hit while the battle plays out, analysts say. "Nokia's success in the PC market? I don't think that's going to get very far," said Bob O'Donnell, an IDC analyst. "And HP or Dell selling smartphones? I don't think so either. They're getting into very different businesses, and that's something everyone has got to keep in mind."