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Sony Says Eee PC Signals "Race To the Bottom" 393

Alex Dekker writes "Sony's Mike Abary says in an interview, 'If [Asus's Eee PC] starts to do well, we are all in trouble.' Presumably by 'we' he means all the hardware manufacturers who sell over-priced, full-fat laptops. And he's not going to be too pleased when he sees the Linux-powered, sub-$200 Elonex One. Looks like what's bad for Sony may be good for the consumer." The CNet article mentions that a version of the Eee running XP is available in Japan now and will be coming to the US within weeks.
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Sony Says Eee PC Signals "Race To the Bottom"

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  • About dang time... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EntropyXP ( 956792 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:40PM (#22601222)
    Remember when DELL said they'd create the first sub-$1000 PC and people just laughed at them? I never understand why people pay $2000 for a LAPTOP that can so easily be stolen, dropped or damaged. $200 for a email machine is more of the price range that they should be in.
  • by realkiwi ( 23584 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:45PM (#22601308)
    The Asus is a badly done copy of my Vaio C1XD (My screen is 1024x480 pixels) - seven years old still going strong and great for getting on the internet when away from home (or out on the balcony).
  • by Sick Boy ( 5293 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:46PM (#22601332) Homepage
    Computing power has been a commodity for a long time now. Companies now have to differentiate and *gasp*! Compete! On product benefits beyond "Windows kind of works on it sometimes." Every industry reaches a plateau at some point, and it's not necessarily a bad thing, for businesses or consumers. Sony still makes decent ultra-portables that actually have some power, which the EEE won't compete with. Apple makes trendy machines with a great caché. It looks bad for the companies that put out crap laptops, like Dell, HP/Compaq and Gateway, but really- will anyone be sad to see them either make better machines or die?
  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary.yahoo@com> on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:49PM (#22601380) Journal
    Seriously, did anyone read the whole thing? About two paragraphs are devoted to the whole 'race to the bottom' thing without explaining exactly why Sony thinks this a problem. The rest of the entry just goes on and on about all the cool things Sony sells and how many colors and textures the Vaio comes in.
  • Re:Overpriced? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:50PM (#22601390) Homepage
    (MySpace|Facebook) + IM + Firefox doesn't need a $600 USD laptop though.
  • by Calinous ( 985536 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:52PM (#22601426)
    Your Dell comes with a 15.4" display, better resolution, better processor, more memory, bigger non-volatile storage, a normal keyboard, and maybe other things.
          And weigh three times as much as the EeePC. There is a market for lower performance, light computers.
  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:54PM (#22601458) Homepage Journal
    This is slashdot, so we need a car analogy. And indeed, people continue to buy expensive cars even though most people will buy a cheaper car that fulfills their needs instead of going for the top of the line. The influx of cheaper cars (from Japan, I may add!) didn't kill off the top models, although it relegated them to a niche market.
    Similar for laptops -- most people will buy what serves them well, and not splurge on the top models. There's a good market for small, fast /enough/ and affordable laptop computers, and Sony knows this fully well. They have chosen to stick with the upscale market, and shouldn't complain about EEE and similar eating their pie more than Porsche should complain about Nissan eating theirs.

  • by the_B0fh ( 208483 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:57PM (#22601508) Homepage
    Unfortunately, the x86 architecture and instruction set sucks.
  • Mobile world (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackbirdwork ( 821859 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:58PM (#22601516)
    I'm a happy owner of the following mobile devices:

    - Asus Eee
    - Nokia 770
    - Nokia N810

    I'd learnt something in these years: we don't need powerfull fat heavy devices, we need smaller and lighter devices, we don't care about power. For power we have fat big desktop computers.

  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:01PM (#22601598)
    That's the difference between the EeePC and an old laptop.

    The EeePC is not supposed to be a super-powerful computer. Rather, the EeePC is supposed to be very portable, and affordable.
  • by IL-CSIXTY4 ( 801087 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:02PM (#22601604) Homepage
    The big selling point for the EeePC in my case was the size. It's about the size of a paperback, and weighs the same. I can carry it around the office under my notepad to pull up a browser, email, or SSH session whenever I need it. It's replaced a much more powerful Dell and gave me more productivity.
  • by UncleTogie ( 1004853 ) * on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:02PM (#22601612) Homepage Journal

    That's Sony for you: All marketing, no brains.

    Seriously, does Sony really think we can take pronouncements like this as gospel when their top lawyers can't even listen and answer properly? [blogspot.com]

  • Re:Overpriced? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:04PM (#22601640)

    (MySpace + Amazon for condoms to use with the MySpace whores|Facebook) + IM + Firefox doesn't need a $600 USD laptop though.

    Fixed that for you.

  • by blackbirdwork ( 821859 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:05PM (#22601660)
    Did you use the Eee? It's the perfect device for a mobile world. Well, the internet tablets from Nokia would be the perfect devices but the qwerty keyboard of the Eee puts it in the first place. You can browse, play videos, music, chat, or do everything you need on that little screen. Sure, you won't feel comfortable using photoshop or any application that needs high resolution monitors, but that's not the target of the Eee.
  • Customer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EaglemanBSA ( 950534 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:14PM (#22601774)
    Perhaps these companies (whether they be electronics manufacturers (Sony) or automotive manufacturers (GM), etc.) need to pull their heads out of their asses with respect to customer research.

    LG did a bit of customer research, painted their washers and dryers red, and quadrupled sales overnight. Toyota made a tiny, efficient car (echo), and sales boomed. Asus made a PC that it figured would sell really well, and they were right, as a result of understanding their customers' CTQ's.

    I love my eeepc because it's exactly what I need. Portable, durable, cheap and linux-based. Sony, Dell and the rest can produce what they want, but when it doesn't sell, it's nobody's fault but their own.
  • by blackbirdwork ( 821859 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:16PM (#22601796)
    And your hard drive will crash if you hit hard your Dell, the SSD of the Eee will not break. (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4dhhl_tests-resistance-chocs-chaleur-froi_tech)
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:17PM (#22601810) Homepage

    The influx of cheaper cars (from Japan, I may add!) didn't kill off the top models...

    Not yet but American auto manufacturers are on life support. GM used to be huge. Remember the old saying that what's good for GM is good for the country? Probably before your time. As big as GM was in the day and as small as those upstart Japanese car makers were in comparison, there's been quite a turn around. That in an industry that evolves at a glacial pace.

    The technology market evolves much faster. The technologies that should scare the bejabbers out of the status quo include:

    • Appliance PC's. Sony has good reason to be scared. So does Dell, HP and Lenovo.
    • Mesh networking. Self-discovering p2p networks that don't need a telecomm or service provider to spring to life. This could potentially be as disruptive to the current internet as the internet was to traditional telecomm in the late 80's.
    • Open Source. When you take an overview of MSFT's approach to OSS, it's hard to mask the unmistakable signs of fear. And MS should be afraid of OSS, the same way Dell should be afraid of EEE PC's.
  • by POPE Mad Mitch ( 73632 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:21PM (#22601872) Homepage

    Why buy a Eee PC when I can get a Dell cheapie of the moment with 12X the power at the same or LESS price.
    Because you, like so many other people, and some of the 'rival' manufacturers miss the point of why this appeals to quite so many people.

    Its fairly cheap, sure, but as you point out its not the best value for money on that score.

    It is because it is also small, and light, at under one kilogram and smaller and a A4 pad it easily slips into a satchel, or messenger style bag that many people carry around these days, making it much more practical to keep with you than a traditional large heavy laptop.

    You can of course buy small sleek laptops with more features, but they tend to cost more, a LOT more.

    Its the balance point of price and size and features that makes it so popular, alter any one of those very far and you lose that unique selling point.
  • by thisissilly ( 676875 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:27PM (#22601960)
    Seeing as your Vaio cost over $2000 brand new (with 64MB of RAM), and this is $300 (with 512MB), I'd say they're allowed to do a few things badly.
  • by gnutoo ( 1154137 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:27PM (#22601968) Journal

    But they cost 10x as much and, despite Sony marketing assurances, alligator skin is not what people want a laptop to do. EEE delivers almost everything people care about in a laptop for an order of magnitude less than the competition. The reason it's selling for twice as much as expected is because it's a runaway hit and considered a good deal at $400. Used computers of the same weight sell for twice the price but offer only better screen size and keyboard. If they come with Windows, a used laptop does not offer much performance gain, and some significant performance losses, as well as a the usual Windows migration and software install pains. Good for Asus, EEE sells out as soon as they hit the shelves because people who don't care about GNU/Linux want it.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:30PM (#22602024) Journal

    The entire article is nothing more then the an out of context quote. Cnet heard something they think might sound nicely controversial, plunks it in in an article that seemingly has no goal and watches the ad revenue stream in when as predicted slashdot picks it up, makes an entire story out of one quote and runs rampant with it.

    Personally I think this is all overblown, offcourse Sony who operates at the high end for laptops will call a move for the cheapest laptop a race to the bottom and warn that if this catches on "better watch out", but you note that completly absent from this article is any condemnation of this, neither do they warn consumers about the Eee. He might as well be meaning that those companies who think they can only sell super expensive ones better watch out.

    Oh wait, I am doing it wrong ain't I. Sony is the evil!

  • by WindowlessView ( 703773 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:43PM (#22602218)

    They consistently make high quality tech products. Blu-ray (despite being DRM crippled) will probably be the next CD. I sure hope it is.

    I have no dog in the disk format wars but can Blu-ray's success really be chalked up to engineering? There are stories aplenty about how Sony paid hundreds of millions of dollars to the movie studios to get them to switch. This seems more like marketing (or something more nefarious) than technical excellence and doesn't support your argument very well.

  • by pipatron ( 966506 ) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:48PM (#22602292) Homepage

    The EeePC was promised to be around $200.00 and it currently sells for $299.00

    This is mostly because of the US economy grinding to a halt. I'm pretty sure that it still costs the same in euros/yuan/whatever other currency was initially projected.

  • by LocoSpitz ( 175100 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:49PM (#22602322)
    Seeing as his Vaio was purchased seven years ago, I'd say it's not really a fair comparison.
  • by Atlantis-Rising ( 857278 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @02:01PM (#22602510) Homepage
    It seems very clear to me why Sony thinks a race to the bottom is bad. They argue that by forcing manufacturers, who already have thin margins to cut their margins even further by creating cheaper and cheaper commodity hardware, it will limit the likelihood of manufacturers investing in high-margin, high-value, cutting edge hardware- and will therefore limit the development of said hardware.

    As a result, the focus on commodity PCs, like the eeePC, signals a shift away from the accelerating development of hardware and software toward a more stagnant approach.

    I'm not sure I agree. But that's what it seems like Sony is arguing.
  • Earth to Sony: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cerebus ( 10185 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @02:08PM (#22602588) Homepage
    If [Asus's Eee PC] starts to do well [...]

    What [asus.com] do [asus.com] you [reuters.com] mean, [pcauthority.com.au] "if" [engadget.com]?
  • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @02:37PM (#22602934)
    Enter the eeePC, which comes fairly cheap (mine was 399.99) with Linux pre-installed. It's Xanadros, and I'll admit, I'm a moron, so I didn't want to deal with it. Installing XP was anything but easy... lacking a DVD-rom drive, I had to port it to a memory stick, run a bunch of suspicious looking programs to make the stick bootable, and then run it from there. XP died after installing 4-5 times, 6th time's the charm...

    This kind of thing is why Windows will never be ready for the micro-laptop.

  • by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Friday February 29, 2008 @02:41PM (#22602996) Journal

    I'm quite certain I do not agree.
    Cheaper appliances will have a larger target demographic, and therefore quite enough money will be available for the development of high-end ones.

    There is a market for everything.

  • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @02:56PM (#22603192)
    What's wrong with a race to the bottom? Like any other competitive market, it will force companies to innovate to try to provide faster performance at lower prices, driving innovation in the lower end of the market. I, for one, am quite excited.
  • by Aqualung812 ( 959532 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @03:53PM (#22604106)
    Actually, I see Blu-ray as being the next 8-track and mini-disc. It is a stopgap between DVD and downloadable video, just as 8-track was between LP disc and cassettes and MD was between CDs and MP3.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @03:53PM (#22604112) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I doubt many people buy one of these things as their only device. I don't think it's intended to be your main machine. It may not even be intended to be your only laptop.

    From a market positioning standpoint, this is the most intriguing mobile computing device to come out since the original Palm. At $300, it's priced just at the "what the hell" point where you might make an impulse buy. It is not promising to solve all your problems, nor is it priced as if it did. The value proposition is for a small amount of dough you get something that is new and interesting, and makes your life a bit more convenient. The choice not to use Windows is particularly interesting, and not only because it attracts early adopters. A device like this has to feel novel.

    Of course, the fact that this device doesn't replace your laptop doesn't mean the trend towards lugging around a desktop replacement is going to continue indefinitely. Once people's data and applications are freed from their hard drive, all they really need are access terminals with various form factors.
  • by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @04:18PM (#22604476) Journal
    "hey argue that by forcing manufacturers, who already have thin margins to cut their margins even further by creating cheaper and cheaper commodity hardware, it will limit the likelihood of manufacturers investing in high-margin, high-value, cutting edge hardware- and will therefore limit the development of said hardware."

    You can go to Walmart and buy a complete PC system with LCD for $400, even less online. Has that stopped manufactures from making faster processors and video cards? Of course not, and neither will cheap laptops.

    The Eee PC is no threat to Sony or any other major manufacture. It has no dvd-rw drive, no hard drive, and the cheapest $300 model only has 2gb of storage. 2gb! Most laptops have more ram than this has total storage! It costs $500 to get a Eee with only 8gb [newegg.com], and for that price you could buy a full-sized 1.86ghz Inspiron 1525 from Dell [dell.com] or Walmart has several laptops betweeen $400 and $500 [walmart.com]

    Saying the Eee PC threatens laptop manufactures is like saying motorcycles threaten SUV sales. If they really want to be competitive, Sony should make a Eee PC clone. I'm sure there's money to be made selling a 7" LCD, 2gb storage and 900mhz processor for $300.

    Sony's argument is BS. I would think they'd be more worried about the full-sized $500 laptops competing with their $1,500 notebooks considering they're much closer in specs.
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @04:24PM (#22604540) Homepage
    Oh, good, another cycle begins.

    I remember being fascinated by stories of how IBM's top management was afraid of microprocessors, because they sensed from the very beginning how they were a disruptive threat to mainframes. For a while they tried to keep them under control by limiting them to specialized appliances such as word processors and the DataMaster. As I recall, the original IBM PC team was ordered to use the 8088 because they wanted to reserve the 8086 for their high-margin $10,000-and-up devices.

    This is all very reminiscent of the disk drive manufacturer story in Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma." It's time for a $100 laptop, but they won't come from the companies making $1000 laptops. They'll come from elsewhere, e.g. the XO, and the mainstream will scorn them as underpowered toys, and they'll find a market among people who want underpowered toys, and as time goes on they'll get more and more powerful and start eating the $1000 laptop-makers' lunch.

    Then someone will introduce a $10 laptop and the cycle will repeat...

    I'm not joking about a $10 laptop. Calculators went from $4000 desktops to $300 palmtops to $5 calculators in blister packs at grocery stores (and free advertising giveaways). And it was a different set of manufacturers at each level. Electromechanical rotary calculators: Marchant and Monroe, IIRC. Electronic desktops: Monroe trying and dropping out, Wang and HP leading. Palmtops: Wang drops out without even trying, HP makes an elegant transition, TI jumps in. Cheap four-function palmtops: HP and TI are out, I'm not even sure who makes them now.
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @04:36PM (#22604712)

    There are stories aplenty about how Sony paid hundreds of millions of dollars to the movie studios to get them to switch.

    AFAIK, what all those stories share is that they lack any evidence or named sources, and in many cases overtly cite the speculation of unnamed "analysts" both on the existence and amount of the payoffs.
  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @04:58PM (#22605002)
    Actually, I see this is a bad thing. I don't want inexpensive computers. Allow me to explain. When it comes to a disposable product, yeah cheaper is desirable. But a computer isn't disposable unless you use it as nothing more than a dumb terminal. But personally, I use it for research, entertainment, television, and gaming. More importantly, I use computers for business. And for business, inexpensive tools is a very bad thing.

    If you're doing real business on a computer, and you're using it to create millions of dollars of product, you don't want to base your business on an inexpensive product. For a few reasons. First, you can't hold your supplier accountable for a disposable product's malfunction. More than that, disposable products come with absolutely no service.

    Look at the iPod -- it's about as consumery as you can get. You can put 60 gigs of data onto your handheld device. And if it breaks, for any reason, they'll replace the device. But your 60 gigs is gone. No one cares. Now if that's 60 gigs of your personal music collection and a few professors' lectures, then who cares. But you can't use that as a business device. You can't have 60 gigs of corporate research, and you can't have 60 gigs of valuable information on a disposable device that isn't built to accommodate actual business use.

    If the iPod were a business tool, it would be better interfaced, services would include backup and other accessory abilities, and more than ever it would include data recovery concepts.

    Same goes for any commercial business machine -- disposable is not a long-term solution to anything profitable.

    On the other hand, it's a wonderful way to cut your manufacturing costs, and to produce a product in bulk that you then sell to people who wind up breaking it in ten weeks and buynig another one.

    If you buy cheap products, you get what you pay for. Say goodbye to customer service. Say goodbye to technical support. Say goodbye to customizations and quality, and ruggedness. Say hello to garbage, in every sense of the word.
  • by gobbo ( 567674 ) <wrewrite&gmail,com> on Friday February 29, 2008 @05:43PM (#22605566) Journal

    Just because Sony builds everything bigger and brighter than the rest, doesn't mean they know what they're doing. They know how to sell, which is the only thing that has kept that bastard company alive all these years.
    ....Sony loves to invent ridiculous expensive things with good old Taiwanese build quality :P, and they're very good at forcing them onto consumers. They are deceptive, greedy and deaf to their customers.

    There is no "they" there. There are many divisions to Sony, and many products. Granted, some suck, and badly. And yes, they have predatory pricing (see below). Sometimes, however, they deliver.

    Consider the PD-150. This video camera is legendary, for good reason (and its even better follow-up, the PD-170). They produce great SD video, they're small, sturdy, somewhat expandable, and reliable as hell. Very tough. Controls are in a good location, other design features are balanced, etc. This is the camera that guerilla documentarians had to have, for many years. They're still in heavy use, years after being discontinued.

    The other side of that is predatory. I once lost the remote control to a video deck, that had controls on it not available on the deck face controls, basic stuff like displaying timecode. Now other than a few specialized buttons, there is nothing special about this remote, it's a little black bar with infrared. Sony Canada wanted $500 freakin' dollars for a replacement... for a $15 dollar part, at best. Classic nasty company policy. Of course I bought a fully functional third party item for 1/6th the price. Video pros have a serious love-hate thing going with Sony.

  • by alchemy101 ( 961551 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @03:13AM (#22608566)
    This must call for a "You must be new here" type comment doesn't it?

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken