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The Future of Subnotebook Pricing 145

Posted by Soulskill
from the cheap-things-come-to-those-who-wait dept.
Corpuscavernosa recommends a story from InternetNews about the development of the subnotebook market. The author notes the beginnings of a trend toward selling the devices bundled with certain services rather than as standalone products. He notes two examples; a free Asus Eee PC with a broadband package, and another for opening a bank account. Quoting: "Soon, the market will be overwhelmed by what I like to call 'mini me too' laptops -- commodity Asus clones that will drive margins for all players toward zero. There will be no real money to be made in direct sales of cheap mini-notebooks to consumers. I'm predicting that the successful pricing model for 'mini me too' laptops will look nothing like the notebook pricing model (where you always pay full price for the hardware), and a lot like the cell phone pricing model where you buy a service, and the hardware is heavily subsidized or given away free."
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The Future of Subnotebook Pricing

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  • Cell Phones (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mixmatch (957776) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @10:18AM (#23693137) Homepage
    People still buy unlocked phones don't they? Last time I checked, some of those suckers have pretty hefty price tags!
    • AMD geode (Score:1, Troll)

      by goombah99 (560566)
      If this is such a great hypothesis then why did things like the AMD geode or the recent (forgetting the name) $20/month balck box computer catch fire?

      was the time just not right?

      Also if you look at these mini PCs it seems like their are teirs on these. Some are low cost low power, some are higher cost higher power. when people talk about these on slashdot the conversation goes like this:

      nerd 1: oooh the XO is only $100 or $200 dollars.

      nerd 2: yeah but it's a dog. I could get an fluvio flivitron for only
      • so no one on slashdot is really interested in the low end machine other than to talk about it's price


        And it is the only way you can get a device with a decent OS (Linux) in a typical large store. Most of us don't like/hate/will return Vista so it makes since to support an OS we all like by getting a subnotebook as about the only other way you can get Linux pre-installed is go to a specialty computer store or online.
      • Low end minis (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nurb432 (527695)
        I think they are of value to some techies, and with a lot of non techies they are even overkill.

        Ever lug around a heavy laptop all day on service calls? Id have loved to have some of these things back then..
        • by Sique (173459)
          I always wished for such a small form factor portable computer as a means to console into some big iron. Since Psion is no longer with us, there was no such thing.
          • by nurb432 (527695)
            There was the HP 200lx, but not sure how IPX would have worked on them, or if there was network card. ( was a novell guy back in the old days )

            But was good for the console port on a router.
          • I think that there is a serious market for something which fits between a notebook and a blackberry in terms of size and capability.

            Laptops and desktops will stick around because that's what you need to do extended computing- sitting down for 30 minutes to several hours to work on a paper, a PowerPoint presentation, write some code, play a video game, or do graphic design. Anything smaller than the current MacBook or MacBook Air models would give me eye strain and carpal tunnel.

            But I'd argue that as the i

      • by Wdomburg (141264)
        so no one on slashdot is really interested in the low end machine other than to talk about it's price

        Sure we are. We're just not the ones saying how much better more expensive machines are.
        • by Zemran (3101)
          or - Sure we are, do you think I would take my girlfriend into the Apple Store ?
    • Re:Cell Phones (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @11:55AM (#23693755) Homepage Journal
      That was my thought too.

      Going the route of the cell phone means there will be few 'unencumbered' laptops floating around and they will all be tied to some service, which will limit what you can and cant do with them.
      • What if Linux or some other significant FOSS project that is essential for a complete handheld system embraces GPLv3? GNU/Linux seems to be the best choice for these subnotebooks, I think XP isn't an option for their underpowered hardware.
        • by nurb432 (527695)
          I agree XP isn't good for the low end resource, but there are other embedded OS's that we might get stuck with.

          Symbios, WinCE, PalmOS, etc

          ANd i still bet they lock it down so you cant do anything with it, much as with phones.
    • by dave420 (699308)
      Most places sell unlocked phones with a contract, or with a prepaid credit. Or you can spend a few bucks/euros/pounds and get it unlocked at any of the places that offer it. Since the trend towards selling subsidized unlocked phones, the demand for unsubsidized unlocked phones has diminished greatly.
    • Re:Cell Phones (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cayenne8 (626475) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @02:59PM (#23694975) Homepage Journal
      "People still buy unlocked phones don't they? Last time I checked, some of those suckers have pretty hefty price tags!"

      Not in the US they don't...most people in the US have no idea what a 'locked' phone means. They just accept it as normal that you sign up for 1-2 years, and each time you do that...you get a free, or cheap (price wise) phone.

      If you tried to sell my US citizens a unsubsidized phone at what they really cost....they'd be flabbergasted...and then ask why the hell you'd want to do that?

      • If you offered them cell service for half the price with that more expensive phone I *HIGHLY* doubt they'd balk. Especially when they figured out they could buy a used phone off of ebay and still use that cheap(er) service.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        The funny thing is that cellphone service seems to be cheaper in the US than it is most places in spite of the contracts which supposedly subsidize a phone which is supposedly worth five hundred bucks.
    • People still buy unlocked phones don't they? Last time I checked, some of those suckers have pretty hefty price tags!
      They do ... but most often it's because phones and toilets don't mix too well (who knew?)

      It's only the really geeky who will buy a new phone just because it's got a built in GPS or a scroll-wheel ...

  • like cell phones... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    and like cell phones, americans will all be tight arses and opt only for the free/subsidized notebooks, and yet wonder why their notebooks seem to be intentionally crippled, while europeans buy theirs outright and have everything work as it should
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm not sure where in Europe you've been to but most people I know get their phone on a contract (hence the reason they complained about being able to unlock their phone after the contract) and the only people that buy phones are PAYG customers who buy cheap old models or people buying a cheap old model phone for their kid.

      From my experience the biggest difference is in Europe you get decent phones for free on a contract where as it's more common to pay something for the phone *and* have a contract in th
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hognoxious (631665)

        From my experience the biggest difference is in Europe you get decent phones with the price hidden in your monthly subscription on a contract
        Fixed that for you.
        • Well duh but can you pay $250.00 for a Motorola MOTORAZRÂ V9m and having to take on a $40 p.m. 2 year contract in the US.

          In the UK it's free on a £20 per month 18 month contract.

          £20 is roughly $40 USD so you could say that per month it's the same cost except the US contract is 6 months longer and you paid $250.00 for the phone.

          That's with a quick browse. I'm sure I could find someone offering half price line rental for x amount of months too. I think I did quite well wh
          • In the UK it's free on a £20 per month 18 month contract.
            So it's free except for the fact that you pay for it. Given the punctuation - or lack of it - in your final paragraph perhaps you shouldn't use 'duh' so much - it's not entirely obvious that you're trying to be ironic.
            • Paying something for the phone doesn't mean paying more for the phone is ok. The Razr 2 sim free is £170 on Play.com. £20 per month x 18 months is £360. After subtracting the cost of the phone that would work out to be a £10 per month contract. Sim-only contracts start at £15 per month.

              So yes while you technically pay for the phone it is effectively free especially when compared to the States where you pay for the phone up front and in the contr
              • by cayenne8 (626475)
                Yes, but, in the EU, don't you generally pay more for the voice time you use than in the US? Many plans over here have tons of minutes, some that roll over each month....FREE long distance to anywhere in the US (most of us have no reason to call outside the US very often)...and with many plans, from 7pm - 6am...it is free and unlimited calling, same with weekends.

                I thought I heard that the reason SMS texting became so popular over there, was the it was much more pricey to use the voice part of the phone, w

                • by Zemran (3101)
                  Many plans in the EU have tons of free minutes and I have never heard of one that did not roll over unused minutes. I think that the US is the only place that charges for incoming calls. But yes, most Europeans have lots of reason to call abroad.

                  SMS became a craze for school kids who are on a very low budget and use their dads old phone on PAYG. It normally costs them about $20 to get their dads last years phone unlocked or they can use it on the same network with PAYG. It is only locked to a network,
            • by tepples (727027)

              So it's free except for the fact that you pay for it.
              thetoadwarrior's point is that there is far less up-front charge for featureful phones in Europe than in the United States.
              • You must be better at mindreading than I am, because that isn't what he said. He keeps insisting that the phone is free.

                It's the same logic as the people who don't look at whether they can afford something, but just look at the monthly payments.
                • You must be better at mindreading than I am

                  I just read between the lines. If you wish, call that "reading minds", but it's no big feat.

                  He keeps insisting that the phone is free.

                  In his first post [slashdot.org], he talked about phones that are "free on a contract". A median individual customer might call such a phone "free" compared to a phone that is only partially subsidized.

                  It's the same logic as the people who don't look at whether they can afford something, but just look at the monthly payments.

                  Except these people make up a large and therefore profitable segment of the population of Slashdot's home country.

                  So consider this: Forget about "free". Is it true that the phones that European networks completely subsidize h

      • by sznupi (719324)
        But also: in EU phones are "unlocked" (I'm not talking about simlock that allows usage only with originating telecom, I'm talking about actually beeing able to install your own apps or beeing able to communicate with the phone via USB/transfer music/pictures that way, etc.)
    • by couchslug (175151)
      The I-Appliance BBS is full of the orphaned products of companies who believed that applies to computers:

      http://www.linux-hacker.net/cgi-bin/UltraBoard/UltraBoard.pl [linux-hacker.net]

  • Calculator Redux? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @10:25AM (#23693185)
    I've read that in the 70s, 4-function calculators went from high-margin, luxury items to throw-away promotional items. The only calculators I've bought are a financial calculator, and a scientific calculator for basic statistics; all of my other calculators are freebies. It took a bit longer, perhaps as the product is far more complex, but are we seeing the same ultra-commoditization of mobile computing devices?
    • Re:Calculator Redux? (Score:5, Informative)

      by poetmatt (793785) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @12:16PM (#23693879) Journal
      Short answer: I would agree with you that we are.

      Long answer:

      The article is completely off with its "There will be no real money to be made in direct sales of cheap mini-notebooks to consumers. " statement. Tell that to every business who has taken a smaller per-item profit to dynamically increase revenue via volume.

      It's the truth of all business and a continually evolving economy and the technology underlying: building something expensive, make it cheaper, sell tons, build something better to replace it.

      Once this occurs and computers/laptops/asus eee equivalents get to be in the range of "absolutely anyone can afford one for a decent one", everyone will have one just like how everyone can afford a cellphone nowadays.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)
      The problem with this analogy is that you only need x amount of processor power to run a calculator. Im sure I could get a free laptop that ran Windows 95 fairly quickly but couldnt run Vista at all. Laptops are forever a moving target. The scales of economy keep up, but not to the point where they will be commodity give-aways at conventions.

      If someone really wanted to build something that ran, say Puppy Linux, fairly well with a small screen then it seems pretty doable if someone was willing to gamble t
      • It seems to me that sub-notebooks aren't designed to be as general purpose as full notebooks, and are closer to information appliances than full-blown computers, at least as far as intended goes, so the Windows compatibility concern becomes much less severe. The only real concern would be getting whatever is on the sub-notebook to be modifiable on a Windows machine, which should be a default feature.
      • See, what's happened here is that a machine with a 630MHz processor - the height of excellence in 1999 - is enough to not only sell but to become a huge hit. I see no reason Linux won't continue to work just fine (modulo sufficient memory) even as Moore's Law continues at the top end.
  • by saterdaies (842986) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @10:29AM (#23693219)
    In any truly competitive market (like the market for bulk, wholesale USDA Grade A Wheat where there is no product differentiation and lots of buyers and lots of sellers), sellers make zero economic profit. Economic profit is the profit above the profit you could make in another industry - so, if you build a computer business with 100,000 and get a 20,000 profit and that 100,000 would only have gotten you a 5,000 profit in the pizza business, that 15,000 difference is the economic profit).

    Over the long-term, companies don't play in markets that don't have zero economic profit or better - because they have better options to put their time and money into.

    Now, these mini notebooks aren't going to be a truly competitive market because, like standard laptops, there is significant product differentiation. People do have a certain amount of brand loyalty, they want different features (20GB vs 16GB, Windows vs GNU/Linux, screen size, subjective thoughts about aesthetics and the like). This is very similar to the laptops most people use today - they're vastly the same, but have little tweaks to them that cause consumers to favor one over another.

    If these mini notebooks achieve the same level of product differentiation as current laptops, margins should be similar. In fact, if the mini notebooks are sold with service, that offers the chance for more differentiation. I mean, when people buy mobile phones, they usually choose their carrier first (usually). That means that the margins for the device can be higher because the different service is adding another level of differentiation.
    • They mostly choose their carrier first. Mostly.
      Fixed ;)
    • by bcrowell (177657)
      In fact, if the mini notebooks are sold with service, that offers the chance for more differentiation.
      It sounds to me like you're completely in agreement with the claims in the article. There is differentiation in subnotebooks if they're sold with other products or services. He compares with cell phones, which have differentiation because they're sold with other products or services. Cell phone hardware is basically free, but cell phone service is expensive. He's predicting the same thing with subnotebook
    • ...sellers make zero economic profit. Economic profit is the profit above the profit you could make in another industry - so, if you build a computer business with 100,000 and get a 20,000 profit and that 100,000 would only have gotten you a 5,000 profit in the pizza business, that 15,000 difference is the economic profit).

      This is why I wanted to slap my econ teacher in B-school around.

      There are no billionaire economists - but they know it all, don't they? And yet, an uneducated man from Arkansas became o

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It's because economists like to call their field a science, when in fact it is only a science if you consider fortune telling a science. Economics is bullshit. Otherwise, we wouldn't have to switch between dominant economic theories every few decades when something bad happens that the previous theory failed to take into account. For instance, where is stagflation mentioned in any economic theory prior to 1975? Oh right, it was considered impossible.
        • by SunTzuWarmaster (930093) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @11:53AM (#23693735) Homepage
          You are correct. Economics not a science because it is not correct all of the time. Real sceinces like physics (black holes, wormholes, ultra-small interactions, anti-matter), chemistry (bonding theory, atomic model), biology (the issue of the appendix, 'natural' supplements, numerous other things they have been wrong about), microbiology (advancement of certain fungi, spread of disease, availability of microbiologies in harsh environments), and geoscience (plate tectonics, changing weather patterns, ice ages, global warming) are correct 100% of the time and do not change their theories.

          Do you honestly believe that because we switch dominant economic theories every "few decades" that it is less of a science? I mean, we flip-flop on issues like anti-matter every few years for physics.

          Of course, I'm replying to an anonymous coward, so I get no mod points and no one ever reads my refutation. *Sigh*
          • by bcrowell (177657)

            I mean, we flip-flop on issues like anti-matter every few years for physics.
            Uh, no, we don't. Yes, I am a physicist.

            It sounds like you don't understand the correspondence principle [wikipedia.org].

          • by pimpimpim (811140)
            In the natural sciences, one tries to develop theories that have the power to describe the underlying principles of a naturally occurring phenomenon, with the goal to use these theories as predictive tools. When a theory fails to predict certain phenomena, it needs tweaking or a paradigm shift, until both its describing and predicting value are in correspondence with the natural state of things.

            Say, this is where Intelligent Design fails as a scientific theory. Even though you could use it as a tool to de

          • by cgenman (325138)
            if your science is correct 100% of the time and unchanging, you're doing it wrong.
      • by tbradshaw (569563)
        This is because in your economics class, you might have slept through the part where "economic profit" and "monetary profit" were defined and differentiated.

        Normal profit, of the cash-money variety, is *subtracted as a cost* when calculating economic profit. Sam Walton had zero economic profit because in his very competitive market *after subtracting monetary profit*, he was (approximately) break even. This is a measure of economic systems in a more holistic view, rather than a "money in the bank view".

        So
        • Also, financial speculators are economists... and they are often the majority of Forbes "Richest" lists.

          Name one.

          • Ok... I'll name him Bob Jones. He's probably already got a name though (not that I know what it is), and Bob Jones isn't a particularly good name (although the best I could come up with on the spur of the moment), but since you insist... I just hope I don't have to be the one to tell his mother, that's all I'm saying.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tbradshaw (569563)
            George Soros
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by wilder_card (774631)
        WRONG^H^H^H^H^H Permit me to respectfully disagree. Walton did two things with Wal-Mart: He differentiated his product with superior selection and service at reduced prices, and he developed a more efficient enterprise. By the way, IT was critical to doing both at the same time.

        Now that's classic economic theory. The reason an economist didn't do it? Translating theory into practice is a whole 'nother ball game.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FooAtWFU (699187)

        There are no billionaire economists - but they know it all, don't they?

        Most of the big billionare money (the new money, not the stuff you inherit, at least) is in organizing people to actually get stuff done, making big deals with other companies (and, for that matter, convincing people to put you in charge and pay you money if you're not there already). Anyone can learn how business works. It's another thing to actually pull it off. That's people-skills.

        I'm sure there's nerds who could tell you all about, oh, say, the physics of football, the biological processes that occ

        • by Kjella (173770)

          Most of the big billionare money (the new money, not the stuff you inherit, at least) is in organizing people to actually get stuff done, making big deals with other companies (and, for that matter, convincing people to put you in charge and pay you money if you're not there already). Anyone can learn how business works. It's another thing to actually pull it off. That's people-skills.

          Part vision (where are we going), part people skills (get everyone on board, not necessarily the cuddly ones), part business smarts (who do we partner with), part negotiation skills (Jobs convinced the big 5 about iTMS for example), part charisma (yes, really), part recruitment (get the right people) and a bunch of other skills.

          One thing is usually absent though, any form of detail skills. At the very, very top it's not about being one smart person, it's about herding a bunch of smart people and hiring oth

      • Milton Friedman was not a billionaire, but was really rather rich because he did in fact apply his knowledge to money, not just knowledge itself.
  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @10:29AM (#23693221)
    I dont think so. Cell phones have something on computers: they have a service that can go away if you dont pay the monthly fee.

    Computers one buys from a store does not. Microsoft and a few other companies have played around with "software as a service", but the smart ones snubbed it. Instead, it'll stay Linux and get cheaper and cheaper.
    • by KokorHekkus (986906) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @10:47AM (#23693325)
      Just grabbed one of the many junkmail papers i find in my IRL mailbox here in Sweden: If you sign up for a 24 month plan on mobile 3G broadband (at $70 a month) you get a Toshiba 15" laptop with 3 GB memory, Athlon X2 and 250 GB hd for $170. For some people that kind of offer makes sense, for others not. But this is just one of several offers that I find in my mail every month. And you bet the buyers will pay the monthly fee, one way or another. Just like with cellphones.
      • But honestly, what place doesn't have some unsecured Wi-Fi connection to connect to? In your office you usually have a 'Net connection, in the car, it would be very scary to be driving down a highway and see someone with an EEE trying to connect to an open Wi-Fi network while driving, at most restaurants you can manage to get a decent Wi-Fi connection from other restaurants or the restaurants has Wi-Fi too. About the only way that 3Gs is going to convince the average person who needs it (which are usuall
        • by KokorHekkus (986906) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @11:55AM (#23693761)
          As I said, it's not for everyone but just using "average person" isn't good enough. Potential users are those who live outside cities where broadband isn't available but 3G is (not extremly uncommon here), people who live in more than one place (weekend commuters, people with summer cottages... there's one summer cottage for every two households in Sweden) and it's also useful for people who travel in work so they don't need to hassle their customers for net access or search for wifi.

          And then we have the people who feel they want to be able to be online anywhere and everywhere. They don't need it but they want it and think it's worth paying something for.

          They're not anywhere near a majority. But it all adds up to a sizeable market anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kent Recal (714863)
          3G doesn't need to "convince" anyone, it's just the first step towards "internet everywhere".
          Imagine just opening your device anywhere and "being on" without further research into free Wi-Fi or hotspots. That's where we are heading, internet is becoming a commodity like radio or TV. 3G is most certainly not the end of the story but an important step towards bringing the infrastructure into place and providing gapless service, at least in urban areas, for a start.

          Landlines at home will eventually die out jus
    • by canuck57 (662392)

      Computers one buys from a store does not. Microsoft and a few other companies have played around with "software as a service", but the smart ones snubbed it. Instead, it'll stay Linux and get cheaper and cheaper.

      You are talking the demise of Microsoft, but you know that and I concur. The operating system is now a commodity, and already we see 2 tiers breaking out. EeePC and similar appliance PC on the low end, and Apple at the top end. The question is how fast will this deteriorate the current Microsoft pricing models. I suspect the next quarter financial for MSFT are going to show the trend and it will continue to deteriorate for years.

    • You would get it with a 3G modem which meant to be used with the laptop. Once you quit paying for it you don't get the internet service but the laptop still functions. Just as I can quit paying for my phone but the phone still does it's other bits and in fact I can take it elsewhere for phone service.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cerebus (10185)
      Consider a mini notebook with only 3G or WiMax. Now you're tethered to the service.
  • Somehow i do not see the cellphone subsidy model working in this case. Laptops are one of the most frequently "lost" or stolen items i know of. If such devices are coming subsidized, you can bet your ass that there will be a hefty contract along with it as well as limitations on what you can do with it.

    I mean, who wants the liability of having to continue to meet your contractual obligations for near the cost of the device, in exchange for having to use it their way.

  • Stupid argument. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Vellmont (569020)
    The comparison to cell phones is rather poor. A cell phone is almost totally worthless without the service attached to it (and vice versa). The implication is the two are linked together, where the provider benefits by reducing a high barrier to entry (initial high cost).

    A portable computer is tied to no such service. It's useful without any internet service in particular, and there's thousands of FREE places around the world to get free Wi-Fi internet. So tell me again why this bundled business model i
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maxume (22995)
      Amazon's Kindle is basically exactly the opposite of the argument being made in the article. The service is rolled into the purchase price of the device.
    • by Yetihehe (971185)

      A portable computer is tied to no such service.
      Yet. If computers are sold like cellphones, it will be only because there will be some service (like internet access, it's already happening in Europe, see posts above).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jonbryce (703250)
      Because it's not really free.

      You can get 3G internet for £15/month if you take the modem on its own. Taking the "free" laptop alongwith it pushes the cost up to £35/month, and you are tied into a two year contract. In other words, the "free" laptop costs £240. You can get it for £220 elsewhere.
  • I can see this model becoming used in schools where the schools bribe students with a laptop to do well on standardized tests. Or perhaps giving every student a laptop and free wi-fi access at the schools, however if your GPA slips below something your MAC address gets banned until it starts going back up.
  • Yo! Asus! Listen up! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 07, 2008 @11:04AM (#23693413)
    Asus's success is killing it. If you've been to their website, it is slow as a pig, 24x7.

    Part of it is due to a clueless webdesigner, who loaded it up with flash, javascript and all sorts of other crap. Add to that a big rise in people visiting, and suddenly their servers are dog slow (at best) and down (too often).

    In fact, it's a classic example of what not to do with web design and IT planning.

    So, Asus, could you PLEASE put some bright people on this, and give them the resources they need?

    At to the bright people: could you PLEASE not make having Javascript and Flash mandatory? Not all of us are smoking the Web 2.0 crack.

    Thanks.
    • by tknd (979052)

      At to the bright people: could you PLEASE not make having Javascript and Flash mandatory? Not all of us are smoking the Web 2.0 crack.

      The general population (the opposite of the slashdot demographic) loves flash. It is the "ooo shiny" effect of marketing.

  • I kinda like the "free with" concept, except... a PC, even a mini, is still a LOT more complicated than, say, a toaster! And something like THAT is what is really needed for people who just want to browse the Internet and do e-mail! As a retired former software support engineer, it is painfully apparent that a Windows PC or even a MAC requires more tech savvy than your average consumer is ever going to possess! (Consider managing the backup process, for example.)
  • Repeat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kurtis25 (909650) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @11:14AM (#23693473)
    Didn't they try this with desktop computers. When my sister went to college dad got dial up internet from MSN which came with a free computer which dad gave to her. It only makes sense to give away computers to use internet, especially now that companies are inserting ads. If my ISP stands to make money off of each PC on the network then the more PCs I have the better off they are. If you gave me a free subcompact-notebook, I would surf the internet more because I would be portable within my house.
    • If you gave me a free subcompact-notebook, I would surf the internet more because I would be portable within my house.

      Umm, they don't want you to actually use that connection.

    • by fermion (181285)
      We will see laptops given away with various services for one simple reason. Laptops are quickly becoming cheaper than desktops. LED screens are becoming cheap, there is cost saving in not having the large desktop case, we are having increasing monolithic components. The desktop computer, at the low end, are going to disappear. In addition, one of the most expensive component on the laptop, the screen, is going to get smaller to make the computer smaller. The idea of $1000 for a small laptop is not out
    • by potat0man (724766)
      When my sister went to college dad got dial up internet from MSN which came with a free computer which dad gave to her.

      So that contract for his dial-up service is going to expire...what? This autumn? :-)
  • I suppose that's the way we are going with blackberries and iphones. If the Eee could be used for making a phone call, it would be something like a blackberry on steroids.
    • by Pop69 (700500)
      Like the HTC TyTN II ?

      I can call people, send/receive emails and ssh into linux boxes, all with the same piece of kit.
  • the margin for OS licenses sold with PCs has been slim for a while, now it's dropping sharply for laptops as well.

    It's not unlikely that major vendors will now put some effort into a user-friendly Linux, something that the volunteer crowd has failed at terribly in the past 10 years.

  • In most big US drugstores and office supply stores, and in every WalMart, there is a section that has pocket calculators, pocket dictionaries, low-end PDAs, and other small electronics. Some of those devices are quite sophisticated, even though they're very cheap.

    Soon we'll be seeing laptops in that section, in a blister pack hanging from a hook. During "back to school" season, there will be big piles of the things. We'll see this as soon as the price can be brought below $200.

    There will still be hi

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @01:17PM (#23694255)
    Sorry. Let me tell you about a hard and fast rule of reality:


    The things which I think are cool, either die early or succeed only in limited niche markets with other don't-quite-fit people like myself.

    Stuff which I find lame and un-appealing, (like iPods, cellphones, Facebook and instant messaging, for instance), go gangbusters and change the shape of reality as we know it.

    I think the eee PC is super-cool, therefore it is doomed to be an awesome device which will enjoy a respected but mediocre public presence at best. --And I can see the pattern emerging already; a massive squirrely investment panic by all the big companies based on early excitement for a market model people are already backing off from. Read the engadget comments under the UMPC's sometime. People are already bitching about the various decisions made by Asus and the new designs put forth. That must-have magic is already kaput, the market force now running on the steam from geeks like myself and that's it. Sure, they've sold a million or so units already. But there are a million or so geeks in the world. I said 'niche'. I didn't say non-existent.

    The only way UMPC's will take over on the kind of level the big players are all terrified of missing out on is if the average girlfriend can't live without one. --And they're Oh-So-Almost, what with their lids which beg for stickers and funky colors. Sadly though, Hello Kitty, and Power Puff Girls, and Sailor Moon are old hat and there's nothing new driving sticker sales at the moment. And girlfriends, pardon the sexist broad-stroke generalization, aren't practically minded when it comes to tech gear. They want to talk and squeal and giggle over dramatic fluff with their friends and they want to have what their friends have and they want fashion statements. The UMPC come SOOO close, but sorry. Mini PC's which take half a minute to boot up, and need to be fiddled with and need to be sat down with and don't fit neatly into a purse aren't cool. They're lame. Sitting down and focusing is for when you're at home after work or school, and you already have a PC for that.

    The eee PC came close, with their pink 700's, but they've moved in a direction which pleases people like me; better screens, better keyboards, better functionality, etc. I am very happy about this. But take-over the world appeal? Neh.

    Now if there was an animated TV series sensation featuring empowered teen-age girls in cute outfits and dippy soap-operatic themes which sported hundreds of brilliant stickers which desperately needed to be affixed to a shiny mini laptop lid, then perhaps AT&T would have a chance to get their evil claws in. But until then, nope. Cell phones do it better, faster, longer, cuter and easier. And you don't have to wait thirty seconds for them to boot up. (Though, hopefully before the other shoe drops and the UMPC market is abandoned, somebody will have worked out the 'instant-on' thing.) --But I do find it wonderfully amusing to see all the big manufacturer's lose money because of catastrophic mis-readings of the market. Frankly, that's the only real way for me to get the device that I want at the price I want; for big companies to mis-read things. Seriously, this is enormously fun to watch, and by the end of it all, I'll have a cool little writing tool with a decent battery life and internet access for maybe $350.

    Of course, I could be wrong. It's Mercury Retrograde month, so I probably am, and in directions I can only guess at now even as I reach to click the 'submit' button. . .


    -FL

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)
      Hey, shitty 1970s and 1980s hair and clothing styles have come back. Anything can happen!

      That said, I agree with what you're saying. The "ultra mobile" fad has come and gone a half dozen times, and each time it falls flat. The only way it'll make significant headways is if the devices make significant bounds over the existing (and previous) ultra-mobiles: they need to be instant-on, and of comparable functionality to desktop machines so that users don't have problems interfacing them.
    • by mgblst (80109)
      A little superstistious aren't we. How do people like you get modded up. Go back to reading the astrology section of your newspaper, aligning your crystals, and avoiding ladders.

      How does shit like this get modded up.
      • A little superstistious aren't we. How do people like you get modded up. Go back to reading the astrology section of your newspaper, aligning your crystals, and avoiding ladders.

        Newspaper astrology? No thanks. That's pointless. The real thing is actually useful. Of course, you wouldn't know this if you don't explore it first. --The practice of the true skeptic is to examine first and render a decision afterwards. --And if you had looked properly and honestly then you wouldn't be able to dismiss things

  • Hmm. If someone came out with something like the Asus Eee 900/901 with a built-in HSDPA modem and 802.11 tethering, for free, attached to a HSDPA broadband contract for, say, $20 to $30AUD per month... I'd be in like Flynn.

    Bring it on, I say!
    • wrong side of the world for you, but 3 do a usb hsdpa modem free on contract or £50 if its pay as you go. the data charges are the same for either £10 for 1gb £15 for 3gb and theres a 7gb monthly tarrif as well and they don't limit you to web pages only.

      works well with eee running ubuntu.

      alternately they have a skype phone for £40 (or free on contract)with 5000 minutes skype call time a month provided you top up £10 a month as you can use Â
  • Microsoft was heading this way with increasingly powerful Windows CE clamshells from IBM and others, but around 2000 they redirected all their effort towards Windows NT "Tablet PC"s. Now Linux is the new Windows CE and Microsoft is backpedalling over shutting down XP as they scramble after a market they could have owned.
  • Does anyone remember when TI released a calculator with a red LED display? Back in 1979 or so? Cost what, $2000? When $2,000 was real money. My dad used to make the comparison, that calculators used to cost half of what a car cost, "now they give them away at gas stations with a full tank of gas". Interesting to see a internet laptop being given away with the opening of a new bank account. Now if they can just resolve the northbridge energy consumption problem, with an SSD, and a solar panel on the lid, yo

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission

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