MocoNews’s Tom Krazit says that recent developments at Acer and Google indicate that netbooks are down and out.
MocoNews’s Tom Krazit says that recent developments at Acer and Google indicate that netbooks are down and out.
When I wrote about Google’s experimental CR-48 Chrome OS notebook last December, I guessed that it might cost about $449 if it were a commercial product. That seemed high for a device that was entirely dedicated to accessing the Web (and nearly useless when you couldn’t get online). And a bunch of people told me my guestimate was too high.
Months later, nobody has announced any detail on the Chrome OS machines which will supposedly be shipping in just a few months. But there are rumors–courtesy of rumor kingpin Digitimes–that Asus has plans to release a netbook for $200-$250 in June. One that might conceivably run Chrome OS. (I say “might conceivably” because Digitimes’ sources say that Asus “should” use either Chrome OS or Android on the machine–which is a whole lot vaguer than saying that Asus will use either one of those operating systems.)
Could Asus sell a decent Chrome OS laptop with an 12.1″ screen and built-in wireless broadband for $250 or less? That sounds aggressive to me. But if they can manage it, the deal sounds a whole lot more appealing than the $449 Chromebook I envisioned. And if they can sell a clamshell device at that pricetag, couldn’t they whack off the keyboard, add an on-screen one, and have a plausible low-end tablet?
Here’s a nice piece from Engadget’s Joanna Stern on a class of portable PC–roomier and more powerful than a netbook, but compact and minimalist compared to traditional notebooks–which she calls notbooks. I like ‘em myself–and despite the “not” in her nickname, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them become the dominant form of laptop over the next couple of years.
Yesterday, a spate of stores reported that an Acer sales executive had predicted the slow death of netbooks as tablets take off. Some took the news as an opportunity to tap-dance on the netbook’s grave. But now Acer is saying that it was all a big misunderstanding.
Good story in the New York Times on Google’s Chrome OS, with some juicy tidbits (a Google honcho says that 60 percent of businesses could dump Windows for Chrome OS immediately, and that he “hopes” Chrome OS leads to system administrators losing their jobs.)
I’m looking forward to seeing Chrome OS machines, whenever they show up, but I worry that it’s both outdated (it dates from the pre-iPad era, and feels like it) and ahead of its time (it assumes you don’t want to run any local apps at all). We’ll see.
Remember Steve Jobs demolishing the whole idea of netbooks back at Apple’s iPad launch in January? I’m a netbook fan, but I still found his takedown awfully entertaining.
Jobs was, of course, positioning the iPad as Apple’s answer to the netbook. But that didn’t make the iPad a netbook, or anything very much like a netbook at all. It was sort of like comparing the world’s best motorcycle to a bunch of ho-hum subcompact cars.
But if the rumors are true, Apple will soon announce a new version of its MacBook Air thin-and-light notebook with an 11.6″ display and a pricetag meaningfully lower than the current Air. Any such machine would still cost much more than a run-of-the-mill netbook, and have a far higher cool factor–and at 11.6″, it could have the acceptably comfy keyboard that smaller netbooks often lack. Even so, it may be as close to an “Apple netbook” as we’ll see. And assuming that such a product is indeed imminent, it’ll be fascinating to see Apple make a machine with at least a hint of netbookishness after the world stopped paying all that much attention to netbooks–and years after pundits gave up insisting that the company needed to get into the game.
Whether Apple’s iPad is killing netbooks remains a touchy subject, but Asus has added fuel to the fire by lowering its netbook shipments for next quarter.
According to DigiTimes, Asus president and chief executive Jerry Shen acknowledged that the iPad was cutting into netbook sales, which fell short of expectations last quarter. At a conference for investors, Shen reminded the audience that Asus is working on its own tablet and e-reader, but said the company will continue offer the Eee PC netbook line.
There is at least some other proof that the iPad is hurting netbooks. A Morgan Stanley/Alphawise study conducted in May showed that 44 percent of U.S. consumers who planned to buy an iPad were doing so in lieu of a netbook or notebook PC. And why not? Between smartphones and PCs, there might be room for a third device, but four is a stretch, especially when tablets and netbooks overlap in their ability to check e-mail and surf the web. That doesn’t mean the iPad is killing netbooks, it just means consumers will make a choice, which explains why hardware makers besides Apple are trying to push out their own tablets.
Still, I’m taking Shen’s claims about his company’s netbook performance with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that Asus lost netbook market share between 2008 and 2009, and could lose its second place standing behind Acer with strong netbook sales expected of Samsung. Even before the iPad launched, Asus was already seeing flat-to-meager increases in netbook sales. Meanwhile, iSuppli expects overall netbook sales to grow by 30 percent this year.
In other words, Apple’s tablet makes a good scapegoat.
If you’ve got a netbook, you might want to take a look at Jolicloud. The free Linux-based operating system tries to combine the best of cloud and local computing, and next week version 1.0 will roll out to longtime users.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Jolicloud for about a year now, but never tried it, and wondered what would become of it after Google previewed Chrome OS. Both operating systems are driven primarily by web apps, with an emphasis on storing things online and syncing to the cloud so it doesn’t really matter what computer you’re on. Judging from a company blog post on the latest version and video preview by Netbook News, Jolicloud has not given up the fight.
The key difference from Chrome OS — aside from the fact that Chrome OS hasn’t launched yet — is Jolicloud’s all-encompassing approach to both downloadable and web-based apps. While the OS makes use of web apps like Facebook and YouTube, it also allows for installed software such as Skype and Boxee, all through a storefront that right now has more than 700 free apps.
There are some other neat features as well, like an HTML5 launcher that you can manage through a web browser on any PC, and a social stream that lets you geek out with fellow Jolicloud users. Users who dual-boot with Windows can even access the Windows file system.
If you don’t have a netbook, just take Jolicloud to be another sign of PC appification (the fact that I didn’t coin that term is yet another sign). Jolicloud is among the first to make the PC look more like a smartphone, and with Android netbooks surfacing periodically and Microsoft possibly considering an app store for Windows 8, it certainly won’t be the last.
Forrester Research said Thursday that it expects netbook sales to fall behind tablet sales within two years, having a lot to do with the dramatic success of Apple’s iPad device. While only 3.5 million are expected to sell this year, that number will jump to more than 20 million by 2015 and become nearly a quarter of all PC sales at that point, Forrester predicted.
Toshiba announced new notebooks today–a bevy of updates to its consumery Satellite line, which encompasses everything from basic low-cost laptops to powerful entertainment machines. Laptopmag.com has a nice summary. Herewith, notes on a few models I found particularly interesting when Toshiba briefed me on them recently.
For almost as long as there have been netbooks, I’ve been meeting netbook manufacturers and other industry types who look at the little machines with disdain and predict that consumers will soon lose interest. (What will consumers opt for instead? Why, costlier laptops that are more powerful–and profitable.)
Until recently, there’s been little evidence that consumers had gotten the memo about their disenchantment with netbooks–in fact, when I’ve visited computer stores recently, I’ve been struck by just how much acreage is still devoted to the systems. But Cnet is reporting that the chip analysts at IDC are about to report a decline in shipments of Intel’s Atom CPUs–the dominant processors inside netbooks–as a percentage of Intel’s total CPU mix.
The news isn’t a definitive death knell for notebooks. For one thing, more or less traditional netbooks using Intel processors and Windows are facing competition from netbook variants such as “smartbooks” that don’t use Intel technology. And Google is going to try and inject some new excitement into netbooks later this year when the first Chrome OS models come out.
But I’m willing to contemplate the possibility that netbooks may have peaked. With basic full-blown notebooks available for less than the cost of a typical netbook–not to mention the competition known as the iPad–netbooks aren’t going to thrive just because they don’t cost much. They’re going to have to be good computers that happen to be small and cheap…
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(Here’s my latest story from FoxNews.com.)
As a technology journalist, I meet with lots of companies who want to show me their latest stuff. Not surprisingly, they tend to be in a self-congratulatory mood. But when the new item in question is a netbook–one of those low-cost, undersized laptops–something odd happens. Otherwise exuberant corporate executives start knocking their own products. Netbooks, they remind me, are cramped and underpowered. Yes, the very netbooks they sell.
Why the lack of love for this wildly popular class of computer? In part, it’s about profit — or lack thereof. Most netbooks cost between $230 and $400, so it’s hard for PC makers to make a buck selling them. But in the insanely competitive PC market, no major manufacturer is willing to ignore netbooks. They take a deep breath, grumble, and then offer them anyway.
Spotted Wednesday evening at Digital Experience, an unofficial press event here in Las Vegas during CES week: an HP netbook with Google’s Android OS, a touchscreen, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It bears a familial resemblance to HP’s Mini netbooks, but has been rethought in multiple ways–for instance, it lacks the row of function keys that’s standard equipment on all Windows PCs and Macs.
This machine’s presence at the show isn’t nearly the big deal it might be, for one simple reason: HP says it’s just experimenting with Android. This is a concept PC, and there’s no news about its chances of turning into a shipping product you can buy. Still, you gotta figure that if HP has gone through the bother of building this prototype, there’s a real chance it’ll commercialize it in 2010. Unless, that is, it decides to scrap the Android OS and begin over again with Google’s Chrome OS…
Yet another article declaring that netbooks stink and are on their way out. Anyone want to reconcile all the distaste for netbooks in the industry with the fact that they’re the only category of laptop whose sales are growing rather than shrinking?
Last year, a Web site reported that low-end electronics manufacturer Coby was going to release a $99.95 mini-laptop. It was exciting news–and a hoax. But Cherrypal has announced something that sounds more or less like the machine that Coby didn’t. The Cherrypal Africa has a 7-inch screen, 2GB of flash memory, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, two USB ports (one of which is of the obsolete USB 1.1 flavor), and either Windows CE or Linux. And yup, it sells for $99.
The Africa isn’t going to replace your MacBook Pro. Or your netbook. Or, really, any other computing device you own–it’s profoundly basic, and as the name suggests, it may be of most interest in developing nations where there are plenty of people for whom even $99 is going to be a stretch.
Actually, the Cherrypal Web site describes the Africa with a word I’ve never, ever heard a computer manufacturer use about its own product: “slow.”
In another place, the site calls the Africa a “no-thrills laptop.” Also refreshingly honest! The company seems to be more excited about its $389 13.3″ Bing notebook. (Which, confusingly, has nothing to do with Microsoft’s search engine–Cherrypal had the name first.) In fact, it says the Bing is “the fastest and most affordable laptop on the market today.” I haven’t seen the Bing, but I kind of suspect both claims are, um, false.
I’m not going to buy a Cherrypal Africa, and neither are you–but do you think it’s a noble experiment, a goofy oddity, a desperate cry for attention–or all three?