netbooks

 Taiwan’s Asus, whose Eee PC introduced the concept of netbooks to the world, has been closely watched over the past year for any signs that tablets were hurting netbook sales.

Asus, however, has said it remain dedicated to netbooks (while also introducing its own tablets and e-readers this year) and vice-president Samson Hu on Wednesday offered a cautiously upbeat prognosis on the future of the mini-notebooks. 

Chris Nuttall

Tablets in, netbooks out is no longer a media-hyped fashion trend. Gartner and IDC have the cold, hard, third-quarter PC sales numbers to back it up.

Sales of PCs grew much less than expected worldwide, with consumers delaying purchases as they thought instead about buying a tablet, according to Gartner. 

There just still seems to be no clear consensus on whether netbooks – cheaper, simpler notebooks that were one of the fastest-growing tech segments last year – are starting to lose steam.

Paul Otellini, Intel chief executive, insists the tablet PC won’t “eat the notebooks’ and netbooks’ lunch”, while others suggest the netbook’s breakneck growth is running up against other barriers such as rising manufacturing costs . The latest numbers from Taiwan’s Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute, a government-backed research institute, hardly help clear up the issue.

 

Chris Nuttall

Tablet computers may be all the rage with the introduction of Apple’s iPad, but they will not have a big impact on the PC industry, according to Intel.

“Everybody says tablets are going to eat the notebooks’ and netbooks’ lunch,” Paul  Otellini, chief executive, told the leading chipmaker’s investor meeting on Tuesday. “On the scale of the PC industry,  they’re relatively insignificant.” 

Chris Nuttall

HP emphasised compelling designs and colours, but also its expanded use of AMD processors in its back-to-school laptop lineup this week.

Ultra-thin laptop concepts pushed by AMD could literally be the shape of things to come, with netbooks suffering a setback in the first quarter and Intel taking another shot at this higher-end category. 

Chris Nuttall

Lenovo has officially unveiled the most impressive entrant to date in the nascent smartbook category .

The Lenovo Skylight is a small clamshell device with a 10.1-inch high-resolution screen, flash storage, 1.3 megapixel camera and an integrated 3G modem. In a brief hands-on with the device, I was impressed with the design and build quality. 

Chris Nuttall

Google gave us a good first look at its Chrome operating system today. It has some interesting features, but is far from finished – the first devices using it are still a year away.

Google’s ambitions for Chrome also seem modest at present – it will run on low-specification netbooks. But everyone seemed to have low expectations for Google’s other OS – Android – when it was launched last year, and look at it now. 

David Gelles

The FT’s John Gapper says the most influential piece of personal technology to emerge in recent years did not come from Apple, Amazon or Research in Motion. Instead, he points to the Asustek’s Asus Eee PC, which created the category now known as “netbooks”.

Few analysts grasped the significance of the Eee because they did not think that people in the developed world would buy a not-very-powerful device with a tiny screen and a small keyboard. Meanwhile, US companies from Dell to Microsoft and Apple gazed studiously elsewhere. 

The FT’s Lex column says the netbooks segment should not be overhyped just because it is the only area of growth for the PC industry in a recession:

Light and, above all, cheap, netbooks are useful for casual travellers and children who are more likely to break or lose a computer and can live with less processing power. Business users, who buy half the world’s laptops, will still want something more capable. 

Chris Nuttall

Look out for a new range of lower-cost netbooks this year using Arm-based processors rather than Intel’s Atom chip…but don’t expect to see any of them running Windows.

Linux, yes, Google’s Android operating system, quite possibly, but Microsoft is not yet supporting the new devices, which is something of an irritation to Warren East, Arm chief executive.