Tag Archives | Notebooks

Resolved: There Are No Such Things as Netbooks

Toshiba Mini NotebookResearch firm NPD has released a study that says that not every netbook buyer is a happy camper. For instance, 70 percent of the folks who set out to buy a netbook ended up very satisfied. But only 58 percent of those who initially planned to buy a more traditional notebook but instead chose a netbook wound up very satisfied. The study also shows that only 18-to-24 year olds think the netbooks they bought perform better than they’d expected.

The results aren’t surprising–netbooks are only the right computers for some people, and you’re more likely to be happy with one if it’s the type of PC you want than if you’re buying it because it’s cheaper than a larger, more powerful notebook. But I find it interesting that NPD–and most of the people in the industry who I’ve talked to about netbooks–talk about them as a different type of computer than a notebook. (NPD’s release on its study begins “Netbook, notebook – they sound the same.”)

I think that treating netbooks as something other than notebooks is part of the problem here–and that consumers who consider netbooks to be notebooks are closer to getting it right than manufacturers who insist they’re something different.

Netbooks have small screens; they have basic CPUs and graphics that aren’t well-suited to high-end tasks; thanks in part to Microsoft licensing rules, they have skimpy amounts of RAM. But that doesn’t make them something other than notebooks. It makes them…small, relatively basic notebooks. To treat them as a fundamentally different sort of device is akin to Ford insisting that a Focus isn’t a car because it’s smaller, less powerful, and less luxurious than a Lincoln Continental.

When I chat about netbooks with PC manufacturers, I still get the sense that they make them very nervous. They sure make Microsoft nervous, since it can’t make the profit it’s used to getting for Windows on a $300 computer. It’s pretty common for industry types to cheerfully talk about netbooks being a fad that’ll go away real soon now.

Me, I don’t think they’re going anywhere. I think they’ll get more powerful, and the division between a netbook and a more traditional notebook will blur more and more. (Netbooks, for instance, do away with optical drives to cut costs–but even pricey notebooks are doing the same thing to shed weight, and because optical drives are no longer essential equipment.)

I’d love to see the industry do with netbooks what it’s usually done with new PC form factors–which is to work aggressively to make them more powerful and appealing. (The 1GB RAM cap is ludicrous–my Asus Eee PC 1000HE was wimpy and unsatisfactory until I popped in a 2GB memory chip.) But I still get the sense that the prevailing attitude in the industry–even among some companies that sell tons of netbooks–is that they’re an aberration that oughta fade away rather than a significant part of the future of notebooks. Can we start making them better by at least acknowledging that they are, in fact, notebooks?


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We May Need a New Name For Netbooks

psionnetbookBack in the mid-1990s, I loved my Psion PDA as much as any gadget I’ve ever owned. But Psion stopped making consumer products years ago, and I wasn’t even positive if the company–which spun off its software unit into phone OS powerhouse Symbian–was still in business.

Well, it is. And JK on the Run is reporting that its lawyers are sending letters to netbook sites telling them they have until the end of March to stop using the term “netbook.” That’s because Psion once made a subnotebook called the netBook, and apparently still has a trademark on the name.

Back in the day, Psion was in many ways a visionary company, and its netBook was very much like a modern netbook–it was an undersized, solid-state notebook designed primarily for going online with.I was tempted to get one at the time. But I hope that its attempts to suppress use of the generic “netbook” go nowhere. I’m no trademark lawyer, but until it started siccing lawyers on people, the current Psion apparently had so have so little interest in its netBook that it’s consigned to a page of discontinued products, and the link for more information is dead. If we’re talking about a dispute between modern-day Psion and the rest of the world, I’m taking the side of the rest of the world.

But the possibility remains that Psion (which calls itself Psion Teklogix these days) may succeed in squelching use of “netbook.” Which would mean we’d need a new name for small, cheap notebooks. The only existing alternative I can think of off the top of my head is Microsoft’s dreadful acronym ULCPC (Ultra Low-Cost Personal Computer). Understandably enough, nobody uses it except for Microsoft.

A few ideas, just in case we need them (tragically, all of these stink):

Webbook (or Webook)
Internetbook
Netnote
Cloudbook (except for the fact that Everex would complain)
Cloudnote
SIN (Small Inexpensive Notebook)
Websub
Subtop
Cheapbook

Or we could simply call them…notebooks. Which is what they are.

Any other candidates?


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iSuppli Slashes PC Sales Outlook for 2009

Next up on the bad tech economy news parade: iSuppli. The analyst firm sent out an advisory Thursday indicating that it was reducing its PC unit shipments forecast for growth by a stunning two-thirds. The reason? You guessed it, the economy.

The changes mean that instead of the 11.9 percent growth it had projected back in September (with the way things have been changing so rapidly, that now seems like an eternity ago), it now sees only 4.3 percent growth in 2009. iSuppli has also revised down its forecast for 2010, although it does show some improvement over 2009 nonetheless: 7.1 percent growth, down from its earlier forecast of 9.4 percent.

Analyst Michael Wilkins directly mentions the credit crisis as having a large impact on larger-ticket purchases like PCs, and its hurting the consumer as well as the enterprise.

“The result of the financial turmoil is less money to spend, and often that money is itself more expensive,” Wilkins said. “With less money to spend, application markets, like PCs, have been impacted.” All in all, we shouldn’t really complain. The PC market has had solid growth for the past five years, growing at double digit rates. 2008 was to be the sixth straight year, but now it appears as if that will not happen.

Regardless of market conditions notebook PCs should still manage to post growth, up 15 percent this year. Desktops on the other hand will continue to see shrinking sales, down five percent from 2007.

No word from either Gartner nor NPD, which also produce PC sales forecasts on whether they’ll be doing some face-saving by tamping down growth numbers a bit.


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Samsung Does Notebooks

If it weren’t for a certain other laptop-related announcement, the big news in laptops today would undoubtedly be this: Samsung is going to begin selling portable computers again in the U.S., re-entering one of the few personal electronics categories it doesn’t play in. (The company has been out of the market for a long time, with the exception of its Ultra Mobile PC.)

Actually, this is still reasonably big news. I got a sneak peek at the new Samsungs recently, and from what I saw, the company’s explanation of why it retreated from the PC market for so long–because it wanted to wait until it could do things right–rings true. It’s returning with a pretty full line of portables, skewing towards the high end. And Samsung being Samsung, nearly every component in these machines is actually made by Samsung, except for the CPUs, graphics, and operating systems.

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Apple’s Tuesday Notebook Event: What Would You Ask Steve?

[UPDATE: I did indeed ask Steve Jobs a question on behalf of the Technologizer community. Here are the details.]

At the typical Steve Jobs keynote unveiling one or more new Apple products, no time is set aside for questions. That’s not meant as stinging criticism: Time usually is set aside for attendees to get some hands-on exposure to the new products, and there are always Apple reps there who you can buttonhole for answers. But it’s rare to have an opportunity to pose queries to Steve Jobs himself.

Rare, but not unheard of: Every once in awhile he does open the floor to questions, and as I recall, this is more likely to happen in the more intimate setting of Apple’s campus “Town Hall” auditorium than the cavernous environs of San Francisco’s Moscone Center. He’s also been known to linger in the demo area and chat with attendees. So it’s possible, at least, that those in attendance tomorrow (such as me) will get some face time with the man himself, or at least with other Apple bigwigs such as Phil Schiller.

It is. of course. kind of hard to decide what questions you’d ask at the end of an event that hasn’t happened yet. But assume for the moment that tomorrow’s announcements are at least vaguely along the lines that people expect, with significantly new MacBooks and a sharply lower entry price point. What would you ask Steve Jobs? Throw out some ideas; if I like any of ’em and have the chance, I’ll pose one to him.

(And yes, you could ask him questions that have nothing at all to do with tomorrow’s news. But if you did, I know what the answer would be: “We’re here to talk about our new notebooks.” Which is not unreasonable…)

[Photo of Steve Jobs from Wikipedia by Matthew Yohe. That’s a MacBook Air he’s holding, not some unannounced wondermac…]


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Our Live Coverage of Apple’s Notebook Event, Plus a Recap of the Story to Date

Economic meltdown, election, playoffs–can we put them all on hold for one morning, please? On Tuesday, the nation’s eyes will turn to Apple headquarters at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California, where the company will unveil new notebooks. And Technologizer will be there. I will liveblog the event from my seat in Apple’s Town Hall auditorium–connectivity willing, of course–and will provide further analysis as the day’s events warrant. Ed Oswald will provide additional coverage. And I hope you’ll be here too to share your two cents on the news, whatever it may be.

Meanwhile, here’s everything we’ve published on the subject to date–just about all of which will be rendered hopelessly obsolete before the event is done:

Is Apple’s “Brick” a Breakthrough Manufacturing Process? Rumor has it that Apple will carve new MacBooks out of solid blocks of aluminum.

The Fuzzy-Wuzzy World of Tech Spy Shots: A glimpse at a blurry photo of what’s allegedly part of the case of one of the new MacBooks.

Hey, Let’s Build an $800 MacBook! I try to figure out what sort of Mac Apple might build for the money.

New Apple Portables Due Next Week: A Rumor Recap and a Poll: Everything we think we might know, much of which is hopelessly wrong.

Twitter Chatter: What Are We Hoping Apple Announces on Tuesday? My Twitter pals share their dreams and desires.

Apple’s Tuesday Notebook Event: Please Don’t Call These Predictions: I speculate in excessive detail about what we may learn tomorrow.

See you Tuesday!


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Apple’s Tuesday Notebook Event: Please Don’t Call These Predictions

[SHAMELESS PLUG: Technologizer will be liveblogging the Apple notebook event on 10/14/2008 @ 10am PT. Please join us.]

Apple predictions? I think I’ve declared more than once that I’m done making them–Apple is just too good at confounding expectations. So let’s call the thoughts I’m about to share about tomorrow’s Apple notebook event something else. Scenarios, speculations, stabs in the dark–whatever you please is okay with me.

For no particular reason, I’ll provide a predic–er, an informed guess about the likelihood that each of the following things will happen tomorrow, in the form of a percentage.

Shall we begin?

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