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Technology Changes To Kill Netbooks? 394

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the natural-selection dept.
The BBC is reporting that the netbook craze may already be nearing the end of its run. Citing rising netbook prices and many other evolving technologies that can potentially fill that gap, some critics think that the limited power of netbooks will ultimately bring about the quick demise of the once popular device. "Ian Drew, spokesman for chip designer Arm, also believes netbooks are in for a shake-up. Consumers, he said, were chafing against the restrictions that using a netbook imposed on them. 'We have failed the consumer because we have imposed constraints on them,' he said. Changing web habits and greater use of social media will mean consumers will be looking for gadgets that are tuned to specific purposes. 'It will be a lot of different machines for a lot of different people,' he said. 'This whole market will be exploding in the next couple of years.' Impetus for this change will come, he believes, from the phone world where many, many types of gadgets are already blooming."
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Technology Changes To Kill Netbooks?

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  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday January 01, 2010 @02:54PM (#30615344) Homepage

    'We have failed the consumer because we have imposed constraints on them,'

    and

    Changing web habits and greater use of social media will mean consumers will be looking for gadgets that are tuned to specific purposes.

  • by cinnamon colbert (732724) on Friday January 01, 2010 @02:59PM (#30615374) Journal
    It is not clear if the net book is a good idea, but if you go down to bestbuy or microcenter, you find things that are almost as exspensive as a regular laptop, with cruddy features, poorly designed trackpads with the buttons on the side, tiny screens that need scrolling (is that a fubar or what) and, since they don't run linux, they don't have the 30 second boot time that was one of the most desirable featues - turn it on, check the cloud, turn it off before the first windows splash screen
  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:01PM (#30615390) Homepage Journal

    it fills a very important need slot : fast, small, web capable device that you can carry around and with capabilities of a normal low end office pc.

    as long as people are on the move and need to connect to web from a capable device (of the capabilities of a pc), that need will never cease. its not about 'social networks' or anything, its about a very common need.

    i dont know from where the shitty need to link everything with social networks and whatnot comes. probably they are just playing along with the fad.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:11PM (#30615456)

    battery life!

    Netbooks are the portable typewriter of the 21th century

  • by noidentity (188756) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:13PM (#30615484)

    they don't have the 30 second boot time that was one of the most desirable featues - turn it on, check the cloud, turn it off before the first windows splash screen

    Who waits for booting when you can just put the machine to sleep/hibernate when you're not using it?!? Shutting down a machine is so last-decade.

  • by Cheburator-2 (260358) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:15PM (#30615494)

    No, netbooks have a much larger displays that smartphone. If you are going to watch films/photos, browse the web or even read the books, then you need larger screen than smartphone's 3.5".

  • by Aphrika (756248) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:20PM (#30615530)
    We've had the Atom for about 18 months now, and it's about to be replaced by a newer version that... runs at the same speed.

    This is where the major problem lies. Those 18 months have seen CULV CPUs come down in price and go up in performance, but the Atom is sat there anchored to a 1.6GHz speed, most likely for another year or so. The other kicker is that the 7" and 9" machines with SSDs were soon replaced by 10" and 12" models with HDDs which blurs the line considerably to the extent that a netbook is now just a laptop with a slow CPU. The benefits of the small footprint and limitations of small storage have been lost.

    Some people will still say that they can do all their basic stuff on a netbook, but when you can fork out an extra $100 and get something like a Dell 11z or 13z (Core 2 Duo 1.3GHz, 9 hour battery life), I really don't see the point.
  • by msimm (580077) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:25PM (#30615560) Homepage
    All of these technologies can be considered stop-gaps until we have enough bandwidth to support either thin or hybrid thin/network-bootable clients. The only difference between a smart-phone and a laptop (or workstation) should be it's dimensions and form. If I store my data and environment on the network I can be almost device agnostic. I can use any workstation and access all my data, applications and any running processes. I can upgrade my system or expand/add capacity without needing to replace a single device. If you have the money why not carry a super computer in your pocket? Just don't carry the super computer parts.
  • by lucm (889690) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:25PM (#30615562)

    > Changing web habits and greater use of social media will mean consumers will be looking for gadgets that are tuned to specific purposes.

    Yeah, sure. As a consumer I really want to load my belt with my phone, my music player, my pda, my pager, my tag reader, my gps, my ebook reader and whatnot. I don't mind having ten different battery-chargers in my living room. What I don't want is a 300$ netbook because it does not have a specific purpose.

    Which reminds me: when will best buy sell a Facebook device, a Slashdot reader and a youtube player? Cause I still have three inches left on my belt to hook gadgets.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:26PM (#30615572)

    The problem is the things that make a netbook so desirable by a lot of people - amazing battery life and small form factor - are being discarded by hardware makers. They are insisting consumers want more powerful devices, so they are beefing up processor and memory which eats into battery life. Similarly, they are insisting users need larger screens which increases form factor and also eats into battery life.

    So basically hardware makers are wandering into small laptop territory, when I'm not sure the core Netbook market is really moving at all - it's just the hardware makers are moving away from it and finding people don't want what they are making as much.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:26PM (#30615576) Homepage Journal

    As they demand more and more laptop features ( and higher costs ).. as eventually they will become laptops and the market will vanish. The people will still want them, but they wont exist. ( barely do now )

  • by ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:28PM (#30615582)

    wen evrything u say is n txts, u dont need 2 touch type

  • Netbook weirdness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:40PM (#30615636) Journal

    What is it with all the netbook weirdness.

    I have an Eee 900 20G. Basically it is a small, cheap, very light, well built machine with a moderate battery life. It can combine those properties because it was very low spec compared to its contemporaries. Other than that, it is just a laptop. There are no restriction or lack of featuers. It is just a laptop.

    I happen to like it because I don't require a fast machine or a large screen. Therefore it is better than almost all other laptops (for me) because it nails the specs I do care about.

    When I am at home, I plug it in to an external monitor and DVD drive and it works well as my home (entertainment) computer.

    I can't believe I am the only person in the world who does not need a fast machine. I have particular trouble believing it because they sold so very well.

    I can see that the netbook markey it "dieing" mainly because the speed, size, weight and cost has gone up, making them merge with the normal laptop segment. There's therefore nothing to distinguish them from normal laptops. But when they were small, cheap and light they sold well.

    The great thing about generic PCs is that they span niches from Vortex86, PC/104, through to laptops (with any practical range of speed, weight, battery life, cost size), luggables, desktops (from tiny Via /atom to quad socket behemoths) through to servers in as many shapes and sizes.

    Why does this particular combination of weight, speed, size and cost seem to cause so much consternation?

  • by symbolset (646467) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:47PM (#30615674) Journal

    CE sucks. WiMo sucks. The fact that if you use ARM Microsoft and Intel can't swoop in on your party and run off with your guests like they did with netbooks isn't just not a fatal flaw - it's a main reason for going with ARM in the first place.

  • Only idiots (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:12PM (#30615840)

    Only idiots want "specialized" underpowered, cramped, horribly tiny devices like cellphones to do things a netbook should, and only idiots want huge overpowered laptops to do things a netbook can easily do. Netbooks are the perfect middle ground between the two, and was the best idea to come along in portable computing in a LONG time.

    Why is it that the only good things in technology in these modern times are ruined by idiots?

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:36PM (#30615998) Journal
    If it had been MS FUD then it wouldn't have contained the idiot line about how Linux makes your battery last 10 hours while Windows only makes it last 3. This is another instance of Mark Ward talking out of his arse. Unfortunately, the BBC's tech section doesn't provide anything like the quality of the rest of BBC news.
  • People want cheap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:38PM (#30616026)
    People want cheap laptops. Thats all they want. Yeah, netbooks are good because at the time they were -cheap-. Is there a market for ultra-portables? Yeah, there was before the netbook fad and will be afterwards. The thing is, at this time last year, if you wanted a $350 laptop, it would have to be a netbook. Today, you can get a laptop with a 15 inch screen and a CD/DVD drive for the same price.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gm a i l . com> on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:44PM (#30616058) Homepage Journal

    I was playing Flash movies on a Pocket PC five+ years ago in Pocket Internet Explorer.

    Five years ago, Flash sites didn't require the same version of Flash Player that they require now. How well does, say, YouTube run in Pocket IE?

  • Wishful Thinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcenters (570494) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:51PM (#30616104) Homepage
    This is just wishful thinking on the part of the manufacturers. "Consumers want power! They want specialization!" No, that's almost exactly the opposite of what consumers want, which is low cost and flexibility. Rather, uber-powerful, single purpose devices are the manufacturer's wet dream. They've been pushing that idea since the '90s, and if anything, the opposite has happened. Phones and gaming consoles are now more like general-purpose PCs than ever.

    If netbooks die, it won't be due to "technology changes," it'll be due to Microsoft and Intel doing everything in their power to kill them off, despite high consumer demand. This is a short-sighted, greedy move on their part, and if they don't offer what consumers want, then someone else will move in that will. This is why I think Chrome OS, despite its simplicity, will be huge. If nothing else, it'll light a fire under Microsoft's and Intel's feet.
  • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:51PM (#30616106)

    I think a large part of that is due to the fact that the smaller than 10" netbooks tended to have a smaller size keyboard than the 10'ers. The keyboard size on the 10" is the smallest size that allows realistic touch typing for most folks. Smaller than that and you might as well be two-finger typing on your smartphone (which is much more portable than a netbook)

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:18PM (#30616242) Homepage Journal

    Of course he's wrong.

    When you hear people who make a popular product predict the demise of that product, what it usually means is the profit margins aren't big enough, so they're about to come out with some new, more expensive product that has higher margins.

    The local stores have been having trouble keeping many of the netbook models in stock. The downward pressure on prices has been strong due to competition and online sales.

    Instead of improving the product at the same price point, taking advantage of larger production runs and efficiencies to lower prices, things which companies usually do, they're going to see if they can sell less for more. Instead of $99 netbooks, which is the next logical step, we'll end up with >$400 netbooks that will have better graphics, telco tie-ins, 3G instead of wi-fi and other limiting "features". The things that made netbooks so popular will be replaced by things which make more money for the manufacturers and telcos. You see this kind of short-sighted behavior in lots of industries, not just consumer electronics. They'll say "this is not a product that consumers want". In this new top-down economy, the manufacturers tell us what we want, instead of the other way around.

    There's no reason we couldn't see a $99 netbook that would surf the web, do email, light productivity apps, etc. How many of us would love a cheap netbook that you could put in a coat pocket or backpack that didn't way 3 pounds, had decent battery life and wifi? It could run on some flavor of Linux. It doesn't have to run the latest games, Photoshop or Windows. But I predict that any company that tried to sell such a product would get tied up in patent lawsuits, hit with phony shortages from memory or processor suppliers or simply bought out by a bigger company.

    If anything, the netbook is going to be a victim of its own success, killed by an industry that has morphed from one based on innovation to one based on corporate dictates.

    Out consumer no longer treats consumers as anything but part of the mechanism that provides wealth to equity owners.

  • by starfishsystems (834319) on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:55PM (#30616452) Homepage
    Totally with you on this.

    There is no substitute for having a general-purpose programmable device, in other words a computer, because it realizes the ideal of limitless adaptive capability. Everything else - form factor, weight, battery life, link speed, keyboard size, screen size, audio quality, you name it - can be viewed as a constraint on that capabilility.

    Okay, that's a bit of hyperbole there. But still, it's useful to think in terms of reducing constraints and not just adding features. That's why the idea of having multiple devices to deliver multiple features fundamentally makes no sense. It's not just the clutter and burden of it all, it's the lack of integration which places a constraint on capability.

    Take measuring instruments, for example. Which would be more useful, an air pollution sensor with its own little keyboard and screen, or a sensor which interfaces to your personal compute node which also - by the way - has access to a GPS receiver?

    It's in the integration of this data where patterns can be detected. The data is already lying out there in the universe, we might say, only needing to be sensed. Some of our artifacts get in the way of sensing that data more than others. Why constrain it to a linear stream of samples on an isolated device when it could be had as a spatial map all ready for further processing? And any ad hoc integration, no matter how prosaic, requires a similar kind of general capability.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:58PM (#30616474)

    I doubt it. As of now, here in the US the price ceiling for phones is essentially set by Apple. Yes, you can get more expensive devices, but a number of people will wonder why they would bother with paying more for something that isn't the "standard".

    If Apple charges more for the next generation of iPhone, the other vendors will follow suit, this is a given.

    I would have stated this differently before 2007, when smartphones (even with a 1-2 year contract) would cost $400 to $600. At this time, some devices from HTC which were unlocked would easily cost $1000 or so, and there would be people buying them. However, Apple's model is not to charge for an expensive device, but to charge what the market will bear and expect people to buy a new device every year, or whenever the AT&T contract is set to expire.

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Friday January 01, 2010 @06:13PM (#30616568)

    The main purpose of Atom is low power consumption. Sure, Intel could make them faster, but only at the expense of higher power. Since its competition is ARM, there's no use doing that until ARM has caught up.
    The footprint of a 10" netbook is hardly bigger than the smaller models. A halfway decent keyboard and the much nicer screen make them the sweet spot, that's why they completely replaced the 7"/9" models. If people bought them in droves they'd still be around.
     

  • by postbigbang (761081) on Friday January 01, 2010 @06:18PM (#30616592)

    Which is why this is a semantics argument based on marketing hype and the hope of margin salvation among Microsoft and major US hardware makers. These guys are scared to death of the low margins and economics behind netbooks, and for good reason.

    The answer is: machines will continue to get smaller, faster, blah blah blah because of Moore's Law and economics. The heady days of $1500 notebooks ought to be over and dead. We already dispose of hardware (sadly, way too quickly) and netbooks will always be cheap, built cheaply, and either steps to bigger hardware or as secondary devices. So be it.

    The propaganda and FUD galls me.

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 01, 2010 @08:18PM (#30617480) Homepage

    As others have pointed out, the anti-netbook push is a desperate attempt by manufacturers to prevent the computer industry from migrating to $199 laptops. The EeePC was originally announced as a $199 laptop. [pcworld.com] Massive efforts have been expended to stop that trend, by both Microsoft and Intel. Microsoft, of course, frantically announced a life extension for Windows XP, with CPU speed and screen size restrictions designed to cripple "netbooks". Intel actually has a screen size restriction for Atom-based netbooks. (For a CPU manufacturer, that's sheer arrogance.) The netbook manufacturers were pressured to move away from Linux. (The first generation of netbooks ware all Linux-based.)

    It's been successful. Since 2007, the price point for netbooks has moved up, not down. Try searching on Amazon. (Hint: search "netbook computers -case -cover -sleeve -stickers -skins -adapter -keyboard -screen -charger -drive -speaker -phone -accessory -komputerbay -battery -cable -mouse", then use the "Sort by lowest price" option. Amazon doesn't make it easy to find the cheapest product.) The cheapest is a Visual Land 7" laptop [amazon.com] at $149. EeePC units now start at $249. The cheapest new newbook on Google Shopping (which seems to be mostly a rehash of Amazon) is $229. The cheapest netbook at WalMart is $278.

  • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Friday January 01, 2010 @08:23PM (#30617538) Homepage Journal

    I want a small one that is easy to carry.

    I am sure I am not alone.

    I don't need 15inch screen, neither do I need CD/DVD drive!

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:12PM (#30619040) Homepage Journal

    The netbook is only going to grow

    That's my fear. They're going to accumulate features and video and bigger displays and extras until they end up being the 4 pound monsters they were meant to replace.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:20AM (#30619706) Journal

    And you can't use this technology or a similar one for a notebook display why?

    Production eInk screens, at present, have 16 shades of gray, and refresh rate of - at best, sacrificing image quality! - half a second or so. Do I need to explain why this would do horribly bad for any general-purpose notebook?

    By the way, if you want open and do not want DRM, nothing stops you from using the dedicated eInk, reader hardware, and run FLOSS [openinkpot.org] on top of that.

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:59AM (#30620180) Journal

    Of course he's wrong.

    Sure, at least for now.

    But truth is, the long-term trend is that everything is getting "sucked up" into the phone. Let me rattle off some examples that I live with, every day:

    1) I have a dedicated digital camera (I paid $59 for it, BTW) that takes nice, high quality 10 MP pictures, and better-than-VHS quality video, but it's quite common that the shatty camera in my phone is actually good enough for the job, despite its flaws.

    2) I have a dedicated MP3 player, but it's also common that my phone is good enough for that job, too, even if the battery life is weak.

    3) And I have a small-sized laptop that approximates a new "netbook", but it's common that the browser in my phone is good enough, too.

    4) I don't carry maps anymore - google maps is already installed in my phone and is better than any map, anyway, for what I need!

    5) I don't ever remember phone numbers - it's either in my history or contacts list, or doesn't exist. Nicely, my smartphone integrates with my company's Zimbra mail server, so if anything happens to my phone, all my contacts, calendar, and email are backed up on the server!

    6) I have decks of cards, but they are used perhaps 1/10 as often as the card games on my phone. Video games? Sure, but my phone is with me when I'm waiting at the DMV - the Xbox isn't.

    7) I usually watch shows and movies on my Mac Mini in my Bedroom, or on the big-screen in the living room. But often, I watch shows on my phone! Hulu plays passably well on my dual-core ARM based smartphone! Audio isn't great, and the screen is a few inches in size, but it's with me everywhere!

    In short, my phone does none of these especially well, but it does all of these in a manner that's often passable and sometimes best available. The phone is slowly sucking up all these (and more) into a single device, and it gets better every single year. The screens are getting sharper, the battery life improves, the capability gets smoother, the price is dropping... It's improving in every measurable way.

    Instead of $99 netbooks, which is the next logical step, we'll end up with >$400 netbooks that will have better graphics, telco tie-ins, 3G instead of wi-fi and other limiting "features". The things that made netbooks so popular will be replaced by things which make more money for the manufacturers and telcos.

    Which is just so much silly talk! Manufacturers want to sell hardware, and manufacture stuff that people buy, at a price high enough for them to make money at it. Here you are wailing about netbooks without wifi, when my farking PHONE has wifi. (Incidentally, the wifi in my phone leads to the unusual situation of running skype on my phone over wifi to replace... my phone - head assplodes!)

    Manufacturers will stop selling systems with wifi when people don't want systems with wifi enough to buy them. They will stop selling systems with floppy disks when nobody cares about them. And so on...

    Relax!

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