Tag Archives | Netbooks

Are Netbooks (Finally) Doomed?

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…


5Words: New Netbooks, Reviewed by Gizmodo

Gizmodo reviews Pine Trail netbooks.

Barnes and Noble targets iPad.

New hard drives: XP beware?

A tablet. For $92. And decent!

Google’s fancy visual RSS reader.

TSA: employee attempted PC sabotage.

Should the feds snub iPhone?


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The Big Guide to Little Netbooks

(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.

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HP Does Android, Experimentally

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


More Netbook Naysaying

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?


Cherrypal’s $99 Laptop: Small! Slow! Sufficient!

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?


We May Need a New Name for Smartbooks. (Good!)

Smartbooks are an emerging class of computing devices that, basically, are to netbooks what netbooks are to notebooks: smaller, cheaper, less powerful, and (possibly) handier. They’re an idea being promoted by chipmakers Qualcomm and Freescale, whose CPUs will be inside the machines (which won’t run Windows).

Trouble is, there’s already a smartbook. It’s a German company, and as TechCrunch’s Robin Wauters is reporting, it’s decided to protect its trademark by going after use of the term to describe these mini-netbooks.

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Is the Cloud All You Need?

When you think about it, every netbook to date has been misnamed: They’ve run traditional operating systems, and worked just fine even when you didn’t have an Internet connection. But netbooks based on Google’s Chrome OS will be different: At best, they’re going to have very limited functionality when you’re not online. Whether they turn out to be wildly popular or a legendary flop, they’re something new. They’re…netbooks!

So let’s keep this T-Poll short and sweet:

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Chrome OS: The Great Unveiling

On Thursday morning, Google is holding a press event that sounds like it’ll be the closest thing to an official introduction that the company’s Chrome OS for netbooks has gotten to date:

While this will be more of a technical announcement, we will be showing a few demos that will definitely be of interest to you as well as a complete overview and our launch plans for next year. We’ll also hold a Q&A session with members of the Google Chrome OS team following the presentation and demos.

I’ll be at the Googleplex for the briefing, and will blog it here just as quickly as I can. I’m still recovering from compiling my Internet Explorer 9 wish list, so I’m not going to muse on what I’d like to see in Chrome OS, or guess at what it’s likely to involve. But would any of you like to take a stab at it?


Chrome OS: Imminent?

Google Chrome OSTechCrunch’s Michael Arrington is reporting that Google plans to release an early version of its Chrome OS netbook operating system next week. It’s presumably a very early version, since Google says that machines running Chrome OS won’t arrive until the second half of next year.

Google says that Chrome OS will be Linux-based, Web-centric, and designed to eliminate installation and security headaches. Other than that, though, it hasn’t had much to say about the OS. (Among the major remaining questions: Just how useful will a Chrome OS netbook be when it’s not connected to the Internet?) Consequently, it’s been hard to have much of an opinion at all about the product other than that it should be fun to see what happens as Google launches yet another salvo at Microsoft. Stay tuned for some answers, I hope…