Netbooks are pathetically weak machines. So Nvidia is infusing Intel's Atom with its GeForce 9400M to make netbooks suck less. Or at the very least, let you play Call of Duty 4. On a netbook.
Nvidia calls its new platform—Atom + GeForce 9400M (the same chipset as the aluminum MacBooks—Ion. Performance-wise, Nvidia is promising 5x faster graphics and 10x faster video transcoding than a standard Atom-powered netbook running on Intel's current platform. The Call of Duty thing, I still want to see before I totally believe it, but they promised 25-30s running at 1024x768 resolution. Not amazing but playable. Before you ask, it'll run Crysis, though the results would make you hurt—which is still better than the current netbook crop. (If you proceed to ask anyway or if it will blend, I will ban you.)
So, it'll run graphics faster, better, meaning netbooks that won't cry when it comes to video tasks, like playing 1080p Full HD video. And you'll see more performance benefits as OSes and apps take advantage of GPU acceleration—like Windows 7, Snow Leopard (Hackintosh power!) and any other CUDA or OpenCL app (admittedly not super common yet). Yeah, you'll be able to actually run Vista Premium and Windows 7 and not hate life (if you've got the RAM too, anyway). Supposedly all with comparable battery life to current systems.
Bad news? We won't see Ion netbooks until about midway through 2009, and when we do they're going to cost a bit more than other netbooks—"within $50" of standard netbook pricing, since Nvidia is positioning them as "premium" netbooks, whatever the hell that means. And this still doesn't help netbooks' other serious shortcomings, like multitasking or crummy keyboards.
But at least they'll suck just a little bit less. [Nvidia]