Sunday, February 08, 2009

Netbooks or mini-notebooks, no matter the name you call them, they are the hottest topic in the PC market. My company finally jumped into the fray with the ION platform which combines the very low power Atom processor with our very capable 9400 chipset. This is a very capably platform that would only get better when Intel releases a dual-core Atom processor. The aging 945 chipset from Intel is an anchor on the speedy little Atom processor.

From what I've gathered so far, the appeal of mini-notes is the combination of low price (about the cost of an iPOD touch, which makes you wonder about how high Apple's margins must be), connectivity (WiFi), battery life, and portability (small size and light weight).

The first version of the mini-notes, exemplified by the ASUS Eee PC, where an odd hot with Linux running on underclocked Celeron processors (the so-called 900MHz Celeron was underclocked to ~630MHz), small 7" displays and crammed keyboards. Still there was something attactive about a sub-$400 notebook you could take anywhere in a small bag (not quite pocketable). As the catagory has evolved the keyboards are bigger, the displays are bigger, and added more mainstream WinXP operating systems.

After shipping about 10 million units in 2008, the estimates for 2009 are up to 35 million units. On one hand, this is an opportunity to expand the markets for PCs by inproving the portability, but it's also a chance to crush the system prices to bargain basement levels. We might find that these PC's become as disposable as cell phones with a shortened life span. PC life spans had been increasing, but Netbooks could lower it again. So the margins aren't great, but the shorter replacement cycle could be a good thing for PC OEMs.