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Hardware Technology

Technology Changes To Kill Netbooks? 394

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 AnotherUsername ( 966110 ) * on Friday January 01, 2010 @02:52PM (#30615336)
    I wonder whether or not the same thing will happen to phones. As people use their phone for more and more, will the cost rise so much that it will be prohibitively expensive? Does this mean that, at least for the near future, the idea of a phone as a true personal computer is just a device from science fiction stories(just like flying cars)?
  • Not the same thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yog ( 19073 ) * on Friday January 01, 2010 @02:56PM (#30615354) Homepage Journal

    Handhelds such as the iPhone and Android family don't allow for touch typing. Netbooks allow touch typing and as such, they will always have a place as a laptop replacement.

    The main thing that would dethrone netbooks would be an external bluetooth keyboard for a smartphone, and it's interesting to note that even the popular iPhone doesn't officially support one, though it can be done with a hack.

    Also, netbooks generally run some flavor of Windows which allows people to have a laptop/desktop experience on the road. Handhelds don't quite replicate that experience, though as we move more of our data and applications online the local operating system will become increasingly irrelevant.

    The bottom line is that for at least the near future, netbooks still have their place, mainly as a replacement for more fully featured laptops for most purposes, and eventually they will probably be themselves partially displaced by handhelds for most people.

  • Trust ARM (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WiiVault ( 1039946 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @02:58PM (#30615370)
    ARM has always been smart both in design as well as production (via licensees). While Intel gets all the press ARM is stealing the show and marketshare.
  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:04PM (#30615406)

    Each format has advantages, but the reason netbooks sell is they are cheaper than more powerful ultraportables of the same size. Speed is always good.

    That leaves room for a speed race and will push lots of netbooks to the used market (where geeks can exploit teh cheepness!).

    "netbooks still have their place, mainly as a replacement for more fully featured laptops for most purposes, and eventually they will probably be themselves partially displaced by handhelds for most people."

    Fully featured laptops are dirt cheap, especially refurb units. Handheld screens are too small for many users. I don't see one format as a threat to another because the market is huge and many people own many devices.

  • by r7 ( 409657 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:08PM (#30615430)

    Impetus for this change will come, he believes, from the phone world

    The predicted convergence is very unlikely for two reasons: keyboard and display. It is not possible to be as productive on a less-than 25cm wide cell phone keyboard as on a netbook, and nobody has holsters or shirt pockets large enough for a real keyboard. The same holds true for displays. Phones are fine for reading WAP-enabled HTML and composing short emails or text messages, but that's not what people use netbooks for.

    Apple's rumored iSlate, an iPhone with ports for keyboard and monitor, may work for some but the hassle of carrying around a keyboard/monitor won't be easier than carrying around a netbook, and netbooks will always have far more CPU and RAM.

    I have to agree with my engineering friends on the other side of the pond and chalk up another faux-pas to the BBC, whose website, streaming audio, and tech reporting have never been particularly cutting edge. Not that our own NPR/PRI does tech any better.

  • Wintel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:10PM (#30615440)

    Microsoft and Intel have been very uninterested in netbooks since they don't have the same market share as full size laptops. That's why the third generation of Atom chips aren't really any faster than the first generation and why the version of Windows 7 that gets stuck on a netbook is so limited you can't even change the background.

    But other companies, without a large amount of profit coming from fullsize laptops, will jump at the chance to increase their bottom line. Ubuntu and ARM for example, have nothing to lose by offering netbook products, since they don't have any real marketshare in the laptop market.

    AMD has been suspiciously quiet the last couple of years. I'm waiting to see if they might come out with an "Atom-killer". And don't forget Via. They already have a competent netbook chip.

    There's definitely a market demand for low cost netbooks, so Intel and Microsoft can continue ignore this segment and risk that their competitors will take it away, or they can get in the game themselves. I think we'll see a real change in the netbook market maybe not this year, but early in 2011 as more and more alternatives to Atom and Windows 7 become available.

  • Blame intel (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:11PM (#30615466)

    Just look at their newest atom offering, its deliberately poor. They are also not releasing duel core netbook atoms anymore(they will only allow them for desktop solutions). Why? It doesn't fit their business model and they want to sell expensive notebooks and desktops with their crappy chipsets. If you want a better chipset (say from nvidia) then you have to pay more for the atom. Also Microsoft pushing vendors to use windows 7 and not xp or linux. Due to all this vendor bullying the price has been inflated massively.

    My eee901 can play a plethora of decent 3d games and is surprisingly powerful, full screen movies work fine and the screen is a great size and it has a ~8 hour battery life. It fits all the requirements I have of it. I can buy a similar netbook with the exact same components today and pay twice the price I paid for the 901.

  • by Fishchip ( 1203964 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:16PM (#30615498)
    I don't understand statement 2. Are we going to have a Twitter gadget and a Facebook gadget?

    These guys didn't fail consumers. Consumers have choice. They would have failed if every laptop being produced was a netbook and every other old laptop instantly turned to ash. If buddy bought a netbook and cries cos it can't play Crysis, well, that's his own fault for not doing basic research.

    This author hails, I think, from the same school of thought as Sony, where they market their Vaio W models (which are kickass little netbooks if you don't mind apparently not being able to install Linux on them) as half-assed computers that should mainly be used while you're slumming around the house watching TV and need spot internet access. What the fuck kind of thinking is that?
  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:17PM (#30615500) Journal

    They've been predicting the "specialized computer" for 25 years now, and what's actually happened is that even specialized devices like cell phones and music players are in fact evolving towards becoming general computing platforms. In other words, this guy is completely wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:18PM (#30615506)

    'It will be a lot of different machines for a lot of different people,'

    What bullshit. People are predictable, and as with languages, humans will always simplify. If we can make it easier then we will use it.

    To use the car analogy: The reason I don't own a motorcycle, a car, and an SUV (one for efficiency, one for general use, one for adverse weather conditions) is because I simply don't have room/money for three vehicles. These items take resources from our lives, just as these portable devices do. I'm sometimes annoyed enough as it is that I have to carry around my keys, my cellphone, wallet, and my keyfob. I'd only carry a netbook/notebook if I needed the additional computing power (or a keyboard, for that matter). Otherwise, my Droid works just fine for most other things. The point is is that we do not want more devices, we want consolidation. We want a one-stop shop because, simply, we don't have the resources to purchase a multitude of devices.

  • by omb ( 759389 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:19PM (#30615512)
    Or the other possibility, a cheap GSM/G3 modem for the netbook, especially if the modem also had all the low end phone fuctionality, I often use a Nokia 3100 instead of my N95 if I only want to make/receive calls.

    The real trouble with handhelds is that they have suffered from feature bloat, and reduced battery life, without a usable keyboard, which could be in mat-flexi format and 1400x900 screen.
  • Microsoft (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:19PM (#30615516) Homepage Journal
    ARM's fatal flaw is that it can't run non-free Windows apps that aren't ported to CE. Windows CE netbooks exist [wikipedia.org], but a lot of Slashdot users say they find CE and its limit of 32 MB of RAM per process inadequate for the kinds of things that are done on netbooks nowadays. For example, what CE web browser can display SWF objects?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:23PM (#30615552)

    "They" failed in the sense that they created a product for simple web browsing. The netbook is a failure because people still want to be able to burn CDs and DVDs, watch DVDs, play games that require > netbook spec hardware.

    Soon you'll see the "DVD Netbook" and the "Gamer's Netbook" and the "Touch Netbook with extended battery life and cell modem with flipout nightlight".

    Both statements are fine. You can fail and adjust. This is wonderful business.

  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:35PM (#30615604)

    I need a real computer. I would like to be able to have it anytime, anywhere,
    and net-connected of course.

    I want to be a contributor, a producer, a writer, a creator, with my computer,
    not just a consumer whose expresion of choice amounts to little more
    than clicking the channel changer on the advertainment opiate-for-the-masses drip.

    So I need a full keyboard or equivalent. NOT a touchscreen virtual keyboard.

    I just need continued miniaturization, so that my current 4.5 pounder iBook G4 12"
    becomes a 1 pound "wafer thing" wonder that I can stuff in a big pocket of my
    jacket and go. But somehow, I need at LEAST 1024x768 resolution.

    Hey but that's just me. Maybe the real deal will be a separate 1024x768 or better
    tablet with a separate bluetooth fold-up keyboard optional.

  • by grapeape ( 137008 ) <mpope7.kc@rr@com> on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:56PM (#30615730) Homepage

    Didn't we go through this already? Arm made their push with PDA's then pushed their demise with the declaration that everyone wanted all their gadgets integrated. Now they claim everyone wants their gadgets separate and specific? Guess their original world domination plans didn't work out quite the way they wanted?

    While I agree that the netbook as it is now will change and evolve, there is now a proven niche for low-mid cost devices that can do basic computer tasks, features and abilities will increase but I don't see this market segment going away. There are plenty of us that like the idea of a kindle for instance but find it too limited in what it can do, tablets seem like the natural progression. I know they have been tried before, but integration in the past wasn't nearly at the level it is now and cost of production and ownership kept the really good ones out of the hands of mainstream consumers. Perhaps improvements in communication, power consumption, quality, speed and costs have advanced us to the point that Star-Trek like data tablet is finally ready for prime time?

  • by starbugs ( 1670420 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:11PM (#30615836)

    My new netbook is the same size and relative speed as my 5 year old Toughbook (CF-M34), just less drop-able.
    And I think my 1995 IBM 701 thinkpad was even smaller.

    The format stays the same, we're not going to carry-around another device just for Facebook. Even non-smart-phones can change your status, and I doubt Facebook will change that.

    The netbook just made an old product new again.

    It's a new sub-notebook at the same price as a 5-10 year old "Used" small laptop(sub-notebook) that you can find on E-Bay. And it runs at about the same speed. The netbook just tapped a market that was previously limited to used computers and the netbook I'm using right now is $100 dollars cheaper than when I first bought it 6 months ago.

    You can now spend $300 every 18 months and replace your netbook as often as your cellphone.

    As to specialized gadgets.

    When I leave home, I've got my:
    Smartphone, (Always)
    Music player, (Only if I know I will use it, and I want to conserve cellphone battery life)
    Netbook, (Only if I will do some serious work(or net-surfing))
    8-track player (Only if I know I will meet someone from the BBC so that they can write an article about how the world is going to re-embrace analog music, cause it just sounds so much better than that MP3 mumbojumbo)

    oh, and a Coffee-cup (Always)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:16PM (#30615868)

    I agree. Ian Drew is the vice president of marketing at ARM Ltd. ARM sells chip technologies used in embedded devices and their competitors are Intel and AMD. Of course ARM Ltd would love if everyone bought "specialized" devices powered by the ARM Ltd technology instead of Intel/AMD powered general use netbooks. How he thinks a specific embedded device is less constrained than a netbook is beyond me. I think it's cool to browse the web from my ARM Ltd powered 42in LCD TV but I'll bet my next years salary that I can do more on the internet with my $250 netbook than I can with that TV. Think about ti though.. You will pay more for a web enabled DVD player, TV, and home stereo receiver, do you really need all three to be web enabled? The additional cost of those with the web enabled features will probably cost as much as a netbook plugged into the TV that you can browse from plus provide about 100x more functionality.

    Here is an interview he had back in Jan 2009
    http://www.computerpoweruser.com/editorial/article.asp?guid=&searchtype=0&article=articles/archive/c0901/67c01/67c01.asp&articleid=52267&WordList=&bJumpTo=True [computerpoweruser.com]


  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:26PM (#30615938)

    Let's wait and see what happens to the Kindle once PixelQi's screens become widely available.

    I for one am looking for a one size fits all pda/phone/ebook/MIB/media player, possible the dell streak. No way I'm carrying along 4-5 items if one can do everything reasonnably well.

  • by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:43PM (#30616050)

    The 3rd generation of Atom processor is about what it's always been about-- lower power. Processor is ~10% faster clock/clock, but this time the graphics is integrated on the same silicon chip. AKA much lower power-- we're talking 12 hours on a 6cell battery instead of 5-6 with the GMA950 graphics chips that were on a 90nm process.

    AMD does not have an Atom killer in the works. They would have announced it to keep shareholders happy.
    The ARM chips are SLOW for a desktop environment. Sure, they can accelerate 1080p video (so can my GMA500 in my netbook), but if Gnome is running at 8fps (yes, I saw it) then the processor is ... not fast enough. The Atoms are much faster than ARM's offerings, and Windows 7 is faster and more resource friendly than Linux.

    Windows 7 is the "netbook friendly" Windows version after Vista, so I'm not sure why you say Microsoft has not been netbook friendly. Just don't get one with Windows 7 Starter. [amazon.com]

    I'm sorry but your post just sounds like the typical "rah-rah-Linux Microsoft Sucks" post without the facts to back it up, just ranting.

  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) * on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:42PM (#30616360) Journal

    To use the car analogy: the reason that there are still motorcycles cars AND SUVs is because each person chooses what is most important to them. People each make their individual choices about what is most important to them.

    Back to the non-analogy: you're happy with your droid, and it does what you need/want it to. My friend has a 7" or 8" netbook, and it fits in her purse, and it does everything she wants it to. I have a 10" netbook, and it fits in my backpack, I don't carry it with me at all time, but I don't need it to be with me all the time. My boyfriend has a desktop and a full laptop... it works fine for what he needs to do with it.

    The reason why netbooks will stick around for the long-term is because it fills a niche. Even with convergence, each device will converge in a slightly different way, based on what it is capable of. When phones start having a full keyboard (no matter the size) I may need to evaluate my needs, but until then, my netbook is the closest to perfect I can get.

  • by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @07:59PM (#30617346) Journal

    intel and the big brands dont like the margins, microsoft didnt like the potential customer exposure to linux, in combo with the inability to run vista, so they had to keep XP on lifesupport, while making sure the license had no loopholes for using it on more powerful hardware (thats why it have silly requirements like only 1GB of ram).

    now win7 have a starter "version", that make for a grand upsell for both microsoft and the computer brands, as they can simply slap starter on things (backed by a nice fat rebate from microsoft no doubt) and watch the market go back under the rock it came from (they hope).

  • by BrianRoach ( 614397 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:48PM (#30618438)

    The problem is, when you try and solve the problem in your analogy (motorcycle, car, SUV) with one vehicle you end up with an underpowered, over-grown station wagon with no ground clearance.

    In short: It sucks at any one of the original tasks.

    Sadly, people buy these things then complain that it isn't as good as the vehicle dedicated to whatever purpose the combo-car isn't excelling at.

    Disclaimer: We own 2 Ducatis, a Triumph, a YZ125 dirt bike, my wife's Mustang GT, my Toyota Tundra, and as of last Saturday... a Jeep.

    Each has their purpose.

  • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:31PM (#30618790) Homepage Journal

    The article had dollar values as well. Netbook sales in 2009, according to the article, were worth $11.4 billion dollars, which is just over 10% of the total for portable PC sales. What's more, because of the low price of netbooks the unit sales numbers are even more impressive. Apparently 33 million netbooks were sold out of 169 million portable PCs. In short, approximately 20% of all portable PCs fit into the netbook category.

    Perhaps even more interesting is that while unit sales for all portable PCs were up 5% net revenue was down 12%.

    The article [hothardware.com] doesn't cover demographics (I would doubt that anyone has that information) but apart from that it actually covers most of your questions.

    The idea that netbooks are dead, at this point at least, is simply ridiculous.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:05AM (#30621926)

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1467692&cid=30382742 [slashdot.org]

    You've had MORE than "ample time" to look into that... &, I suspect @ this point, you are running because your attempts @ "shooting down my points" on HOSTS on your blog, rather than here, only got YOU "shot down", quite quickly, right in that URL here above...

    Now, YOU may not LIKE this? But... If you are indicative of management @ MS, & their skillset in this art & science? Your companies' in trouble... & your attempts @ placating me & stating you'd look into it? You NEVER intended to imo...

    People aren't stupid you know, & neither am I. Your attempts @ "placating" me? Pretty transparent, & I am ONLY POINTING THIS OUT TO MAKE A BETTER WINDOWS 7 MAINLY (because overall? It's NOT BAD, but per what I put in here?? It can be better!)


    P.S.=> For those interested? Take a read in the URL from this website above... & here is a short summation of what I am reminding Mr. Foredecker of Microsoft about:

    1.) Microsoft's removal of the ability to use 0 as a valid blocking "IP Address" in Windows VISTA, Windows Server 2008, & yes, Windows 7 from 12/08/2008 MS "Patch Tuesday" onwards, where VISTA @ least was able to use 0 before that in HOSTS files!

    (Which on Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003, it STILL returns a on sites blocked by 0 in the HOSTS file upon ping'ing they while they are blocked thus, in HOSTS files)

    After all:

    Using 0 in HOSTS files yields a FAR SMALLER HOSTS FILE than does using even, & especially the default "loopback adapter" - here, for example:

    (656,000 entry HOSTS file)?

    Using yields a slower & larger 23mb sized HOSTS file + it adds a "loopback" operation to the mix (these others below, do not, on the latter point)

    Using yields an 18mb sized HOSTS file

    Using 0 instead? ONLY A 14mb sized HOSTS file results!

    Thus, 0 allows MUCH faster reads into RAM for caching it (due to up to 60% or more less filesize vs., & more efficient internal operations as well (due to WHILE loop reads of files & their internal records, character-by-character, until the CR+LF (enter keypress) in hit on each line's ending, & lastly, until the EOF marker/trailer record is encountered...)).

    2.) Problems in the local DNS Client caching service (which begins to "cough up badly" to say the least, when using HOSTS files that are relatively "largish" in size (over 1mb iirc))

    3.) And, I would like to know the reasoning behind this being done too, because it makes NO sense (after all: MS put in the usage of 0 in HOSTS files somewhere after Windows 2000 released, in a service pack, altering the base BSD reference design & actually IMPROVING IT, & it was that way since then, up into VISTA even, until 12/08/2009, so why change it now?)

    Again - simply because using 0 here in HOSTS files (or, any HOSTS for anyone really), yields a FAR SMALLER HOSTS FILE than using or!

    (Which, also again, means faster reads up from disk into memory (be that the DNS client service, OR, the local diskcache subsystem (which takes over when the DNS client service is turned off, due to the faults in #2 above))).


  • by bingoUV ( 1066850 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @04:29PM (#30625722)

    While I agree with you for the most part,

    Manufacturers will stop selling systems with wifi when people don't want systems with wifi enough to buy them

    I think the GP's point was that wifi will be replaced by 3G because:

    1. 3G networks are controlled by telcos.
    2. Telcos will charge the customers for access to 3G network.
    3. Telcos earn money if netbooks do not have wifi (wifi networks are typically end-user controlled, without giving extra money to telcos).
    4. Telcos pressurize device manufacturers to not include wifi in devices. How?
    4a. Subsidizing chosen devices (of course without wifi) by bundling with their 3G contract.
    4b. Directly through agreements with device manufacturers. I guess this would border on illegal.

    So consumers not wanting wifi is one reason why wifi might be phased out; but telcos not wanting wifi is another reason that you should not overlook.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats