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#331217 - 04/02/09 05:29 PM Laptops? So Yesterday.....
Marty Offline
Light and Cheap, Netbooks Are Poised to Reshape PC Industry

SAN FRANCISCO — Get ready for the next stage in the personal computer revolution: ultrathin and dirt cheap.

AT&T announced on Tuesday that customers in Atlanta could get a type of compact PC called a netbook for just $50 if they signed up for an Internet service plan — an offer the phone company may introduce elsewhere after a test period. This year, at least one wireless phone company in the United States will probably offer netbooks free with paid data plans, copying similar programs in Japan, according to industry experts.

But this revolution is not just about falling prices. Personal computers — and the companies that make their crucial components — are about to go through their biggest upheaval since the rise of the laptop. By the end of the year, consumers are likely to see laptops the size of thin paperback books that can run all day on a single charge and are equipped with touch screens or slide-out keyboards.

The industry is buzzing this week about these devices at a telecommunications conference in Las Vegas, and consumers will see the first machines on shelves as early as June, probably from the netbook pioneers Acer and Asustek.

“The era of a perfect Internet computer for $99 is coming this year,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, the chief executive of Nvidia, a maker of PC graphics chips that is trying to adapt to the new technological order. “The primary computer that we know of today is the basic PC, and it’s dying to be reinvented.”

An unexpected group of companies has emerged to help drive this transformation — firms like Qualcomm, Freescale Semiconductor and Samsung Electronics, which make cheap, power-saving chips used in cellphones and are now applying that expertise to PCs.

As in any revolution, the current rulers of the kingdom — Intel and Microsoft, which make the chips and software that run most PCs — face an unprecedented challenge to their dominance. Microsoft is particularly vulnerable, since many of the new netbooks use Linux software instead of Windows.

“A broad shift in the consumer market toward low-cost PCs would clearly put pressure on the revenues of nearly every player in the value chain, from component suppliers to retailers,” wrote A. M. Sacconaghi, a securities analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, in a report last month. “However, we believe the impact would be especially negative for Intel and Microsoft, who today enjoy near monopoly positions in their respective markets.”

So far, netbooks have appealed to a relatively small audience. Some of the devices feel more like toys or overgrown phones than full-featured computers. Still, they are the big success story in the PC industry, with sales predicted to double this year, even as overall PC sales fall 12 percent, according to the research firm Gartner. By the end of 2009, netbooks could account for close to 10 percent of the PC market, an astonishing rise in a short span.

Netbooks have trouble running demanding software like games and photo-editing programs. They cater instead to people who spend most of their time dealing with online services and want a cheap, light device they can use on the go. Most of the netbooks sold today run on an Intel chip called Atom, which is a lower-cost, lower-power version of the company’s standard laptop chips. And about 80 percent of netbooks run Windows XP, the older version of Microsoft’s flagship software.

The new breed of netbooks, built on cellphone innards, threatens to disrupt that oligopoly.

Based on an architecture called ARM, from ARM Holdings in Britain, cellphone chips consume far less power than Atom chips, and they combine many functions onto a single piece of silicon. At around $20, they cost computer makers less than an Atom chip with its associated components.

But the ARM chips come with a severe trade-off — they cannot run the major versions of Windows or its popular complementary software.

Netbook makers have turned to Linux, an open-source operating system that costs $3 instead of the $25 that Microsoft typically charges for Windows XP. They are also exploring the possibility of using the Android operating system from Google, originally designed for cellphones. (Companies like Acer, Dell and Hewlett-Packard already sell some Atom-based netbooks with Linux.)

The cellphone-chip makers argue that the ARM-Linux combination is just fine for a computer meant to handle e-mail, Facebook, streaming video from sites like YouTube and Hulu, and Web-based documents.

Freescale, for example, gave free netbooks to a group of 14- to 20-year-olds and watched what happened. “They would use it for Internet access when eating breakfast or on the couch, or bring it to class for taking notes,” said Glen Burchers, the director of consumer products marketing at Freescale.

Mr. Burchers said a number of companies already making netbooks would show a new round of machines using cellphone chips at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, this June.

Qualcomm, the San Diego company that built an empire on chips for cellphones, recently introduced Snapdragon, a chip created for smartphones and ultralight computers. Already, the company has announced deals to sell the chip to 15 major device manufacturers, including LG, Acer, Samsung and Asustek. Qualcomm said some Snapdragon devices appearing this year would have screens of 10 to 12 inches.

Intel and Microsoft warn that consumers should remain skeptical about the performance of a computer that costs less than $300.

“When these things are sold, they need clear warnings labels about what they won’t be able to do,” said Sean M. Maloney, the chief sales and marketing officer at Intel. “It would be good to wait and play with one of these products before the industry gets carried away.”

Still, the rise of netbooks could hurt both companies. In its last quarter, Microsoft posted the first sales decline in its history for the PC version of Windows. It blamed netbooks for the drop. On average, Microsoft charges computer makers $73 for Windows Vista, the version of Windows used in desktop and high-powered laptop PCs. That is triple what it receives for a sale of Windows XP for a netbook.

For Intel, the Atom chips represent lower-profit products, which could turn into a major sore spot if consumers become comfortable with netbooks and start to view them as replacements for standard computers.

In his recent report, Mr. Sacconaghi speculated that 50 percent of consumers could get by with an Atom-based computer for their everyday tasks. PC makers like H.P., Acer and Dell, which face razor-thin profit margins selling laptops, could use the rising competition to place more price pressure on both Microsoft and Intel, Mr. Sacconaghi said.

The big winners in the rise of netbooks that use cellphone chips could be the cellphone carriers, which would have access to a whole new market: PC users.

Intel, meanwhile, expects cheap netbooks to expand the PC market to include hundreds of millions of children who have cellphones but no computers. The company has dozens of deals in the works with service providers to seize on this potential, Mr. Maloney said. As for the emerging competition, he said Intel would show off some surprising computer designs at Computex as well.

Mr. Huang of Nvidia said the PC industry sat at an inflection point. “Disruption will come in from the bottom and forever change the market.”


#331225 - 04/02/09 05:59 PM Re: Laptops? So Yesterday..... [Re: Marty]
Peter Jones Offline
There's one national chain in Britain which is giving away a free Acer laptop, and not a base model, if you sign up for two years' internet service at normal prices.

And HP already have a laptop on the market which achieves 24 hours' normal use on a single charge.

#331259 - 04/02/09 10:58 PM Re: Laptops? So Yesterday..... [Re: Peter Jones]
Chris Campbell Offline
Yes plenty of free computer offers in the UK for Laptops and Netbooks for a 2 year mobile broadband contract


Maybe BTL may follow suit??? confused

#331433 - 04/04/09 03:59 PM Re: Laptops? So Yesterday..... [Re: Chris Campbell]
tacogirl Offline
I was drooling over the portables at best buy in San Fran they definitly look handy for net on the go.

Anyone have one yet?
tacogirl Facebook, Belize Life Linked In - Belize info & images https://www.facebook.com/tacogirl

#331452 - 04/04/09 09:14 PM Re: Laptops? So Yesterday..... [Re: tacogirl]
wannaBEthere Offline
I bought an Acer Aspire One (netbook) in January. It's perfect for what we need it for. Easy to grab and pack, so makes for a super convenient way to stay connected when not at home.

Has web cam, wireless and downloads pics from my camera in a flash - makes for a happy camper.

Alas, cry won't be bringing it to SP in May. Tickets all bought, reservations made, but hubby is going to have hip replacement surgery on the 21st.

Blessing that we weren't already there when it happened, so will restart the count down clock and hope to come in the fall.

"The truly happy person is the one who can enjoy the scenery even when he must take a detour"

#331488 - 04/05/09 10:46 AM Re: Laptops? So Yesterday..... [Re: wannaBEthere]
tacogirl Offline
Thanks for your input wannaBEthere I like the grab and go idea they are so small and light.

Any cons that you have found with it? Just in research mode right now.

Hope hubby is ok - see you in the fall.
tacogirl Facebook, Belize Life Linked In - Belize info & images https://www.facebook.com/tacogirl

#331490 - 04/05/09 11:01 AM Re: Laptops? So Yesterday..... [Re: tacogirl]
ckocian Offline
My son, the professional hacker for the good guys, has had a Dell netbook for a several months. He's always the dude with the newest toys. You have to have external components if you want bells and whistles and some keyboards are smaller (meaning keyboarding is a bit more difficult.) I see Sam's Club has one on sale, a Dell Inspiron, this week for $397USD.

#331501 - 04/05/09 01:18 PM Re: Laptops? So Yesterday..... [Re: ckocian]
wannaBEthere Offline
Battery life is a little short on the Aspire, but not an issue for us.

I agree with the lack of bells and whistles, IE, no CD drive, etc, but I think the main reason they're becoming popular is because of their size and ease of taking along to where-ever. Truly just a grab and go, kinda like a fat envelope.

We bought an external modem for when we're in areas that don't have Wifi, happens quite frequently throughout the year.

For us it's an inexpensive way to stay connected. He's a pastor and needs to keep in touch. Emails are lot easier than phone calls, and you have more control about the "when" part especially if you're on R&R and not business.

"The truly happy person is the one who can enjoy the scenery even when he must take a detour" - Anonymous
"The truly happy person is the one who can enjoy the scenery even when he must take a detour"

#331546 - 04/05/09 09:53 PM Re: Laptops? So Yesterday..... [Re: wannaBEthere]
tacogirl Offline
thanks wannaBEthere
tacogirl Facebook, Belize Life Linked In - Belize info & images https://www.facebook.com/tacogirl


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