Sure enough, I'd written about this a year ago, referring to a 2006 Dan's Data article that mentioned the PalmOS Dana laptop. I think, though I don't trust my memory on this, Palm even showed their own laptop before they died in the late 90s. (The current company is a zombie remnant.)
Of course there were also WinCE devices back then that blurred the boundary between PDA and laptop.
Dan's 2006 article mentioned the Newton eMate -- which was sort of a proto-Netbook (I was in an EMR startup building a web-based medical record back then ... so there was a proto-Cloud...). Emphases mine.
eMate 300 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaIn those days wireless LANs were crude, slow, unreliable, proprietary, power sucking, and expensive. So the eMate wasn't really a Netbook (maybe we should call them Cloudbooks?), but it was certainly a proto-Netbook.
... The eMate 300 was a personal digital assistant designed, manufactured and sold by Apple Computer to the education market as a low-cost laptop running the Newton operating system. The eMate was introduced March 7, 1997, for US$800 and was discontinued along with the Apple Newton product line and its operating system on February 27, 1998.
The eMate 300 featured a 480x320 resolution 16-shade grayscale display with a backlight, a stylus pen, a full-sized keyboard, an infrared port, and standard Macintosh serial/LocalTalk ports. Power came from built-in rechargeable batteries, which lasted up to 28 hours on full charge... The eMate used a 25 MHz ARM 710a RISC processor...
Cheap wireless LANs were a big missing link in the evolution of the Netbook/Cloudbook.
Apple will do a true Netbook equivalent this year. They really don't have a bleedin' choice.