With cloud computing, and with the computer acting largely as a terminal to other powerful computers in the internet cloud, you would think an old computer would do fine.
Yes and No.
There are trade-offs. There are pros and cons.
Battery, speed, multitasking, software, proprietariness, ease of use, cost, and so on.
I got out an abandoned 7” EEE PC to see what it could do. It runs Ubuntu 9.10 very well indeed, so it has access to internet. It is fast enough if you are doing only one thing at a time.
(Available now is a slimmed-down fast version of Ubuntu for old netbooks, called Lunbuntu (light Ubuntu). Click to download Lubuntu, then follow the simple instructions. You download two files--starting one sets up a flash drive which, when will start up a live version.) Ran live on my 10" EEE PC without incident---runs lightning fast. hmmm.
It lacks a Kindle reader for now, but it does have Lucidor, a very capable reader. It also accesses most cloud music, and Hulu recorded TV.. It runs Chrome browser and apps generally.
It has no spinning drive, a big advantage for portability. But its battery life is low. It is fussy to connect to wifi. Otherwise good.
Newer devices are proprietary to some extent. They do not access everything. The new Kindle Fire is nice and small, easily carried in a big picket. The unknown is to what extent browsing will be limited by having Amazon mediate everything.
Now I don’t mind that mediation. If I subscribe to Spotify (nearly all) music for a fixed fee for anything, it is OK with me for Spotify to see what I am listening to, and pay royalties accordingly. However, if mediation restricts my access too much, that will be a no-no, and a farewell to that system.
Whether the Spotify marketing scheme will come to eBooks is still unknown. This scheme offers broad access at a fixed fee (or free with advertising). I would welcome it. In the meantime, I am stuck with the Fire’s library or the iPad/Touch libraries.
I would do the same for TV, pay a fixed fee for my choice of content, a little like cable or satellite.
The selection of device, therefore is contingent on content availability and content cost.
There is also the choice of apps, with Apple way out in front. Old equipment will handle most Google apps, though.
We will see what apps are coming with Windows 8.
Each provider has a unique marketing stance.
Apple sells content in order to sell devices. Amazon sells devices in order to sell content. Google provides device and content in order to sell advertising. Microsoft sells Windows software for nearly any computer. Ubuntu gives it away free.
They all have a role. They all need to do what it takes to compete with each other. I don’t see a “winner”. I see development until all media is available at the least cost.
Keep your old computer for generation of documents (what more do you need, unless it is too slow?) and try a new device for consumption of media. Minimally, have a Kindle, iTouch, or iPad. In not too long most of us will have shifted from paper to device for a lot of reading (I still read the Sunday paper; I get some stuff BOTH ways--does not cost any more for TIME, for example ($30 a year).)
Then, with a cheap cellphone and GPS you have it all on the cheap. The iTouch even has a GPS adapter.