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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)?
    • Perhaps - though we do see technology becoming cheaper and more powerful over time. My first Intel 286 based PC was $2,500 and had a whopping 128KB of memory.

      Today, my iPhone has orders of magnitude more processing power, memory, storage and screen pixles. Its just a few hundred bucks.

      I think we are heading to more powerful, small and cheaper devices. One of the defining things will be physical screen size (not pixel resolution). I think there will be four first order sizes:

      1. The pocket/portable sizes. Thi
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tacarat ( 696339 )
        Part of the problem isn't the hardware.

        Many contemporary netbook models run Windows XP or Windows 7 which has forced the specifications, and price, upwards. Many, he said, now cost at least £350, a figure close to that for a more capable full-size laptop.

        I wonder if licensing costs will be enough of a factor to help edge linux back (or get manufacturer support increased) onto netbooks. It seems XP was ok, but I'm curious what the price difference is for a crippled windows 7 install. I've seen returns on those netbooks because the buyer couldn't change the background!

      • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:48PM (#30615692) Homepage
        Please don't use Bing. It didn't return any relevant results.
    • 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 poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:31PM (#30615590) Journal

        the article should be tagged FUD, really.

        MS doesn't like netbooks because of a lack of margin, so they try to put out press whenever they can against the concept.

        In reality, netbook sales are WAY up [], which isn't a sign of them going down.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
          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.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:47PM (#30616406)

            I believe TFA is talking about the Latitude ON technology at that point. Basically the Linux system is running on an ARM processor (and probably from an embedded flash, instead of HDD/SDD), while the Windows system runs on Intel processor (the laptop has both). It's hardly a fair comparison, but that's what you get for not having an ARM port of Windows.

            • 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 hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:12AM (#30619368) Journal

                I don't think we can just blame MSFT for this round o' FUD, I bet a lot of it can be traced back to good old chipzilla Intel. So see Intel thought they had their plan down cold: Make an uber-cheapo chip (Atom) and carve out a new niche to sell said cheapo chip (MID) and kick back and cash the checks while not hurting their laptop business nary a ta ta.

                Instead though what happens is the hardware manufacturers didn't go with MID (which according to the Intel vision was a cheap stylus based "browser in a box") but instead copied the idea of the OLPC and gave us cheapo netbooks with those chips instead which do compete with Intel's laptop chips, as there are many folks that spent big money on laptops that found they are quite happy with a cheap portable netbook. Now they not only have to deal with Atom cutting into their profits, they have AMD and ARM jumping into the game as well, which I'm sure has the guys at Intel ready to shit puppies. I think that is why they are coming out with Pine Trail, so they can use the Atom to at least put another nail in the Nvidia coffin by killing Ion.

                But I'm sure Intel can't be too happy right about now. Netbooks are up, laptops are down, and I just saw a nice row of AMD Neo based netbooks starting at just $450 at Walmart that do HD video and can even do light gaming thanks to the Radeon onboard. IIRC Intel put just as many restrictions on Atom as MSFT did, such as "no dual cores" in netbooks and keep the discount, etc. I wonder if they'll have to bite the bullet and lift those next year or try to steer folks away from buying their Atom chips in the hopes of selling them Core based devices? Because with ARM getting ready to drop the price floor out of netbooks, and Neo solving the "lousy video" problem it looks more and more to me that with Atom Intel may have made a boo boo. Once they opened the door and showed everyone that there was profits to be made I bet they will have a hard time just killing the netbook, especially now that their rivals have all jumped on board.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hitmark ( 640295 )

          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 re

      • I agree. I bought a Droid recently, and without trying to give it a shameless plug (I'm sure iphone is similar) I was amazed at how well it served my purposes when away from my computer. I don't feel any need at all for a netbook now. And, it fits in my pocket and makes phone calls...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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 sala

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


      • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by omb ( 759389 )
      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.
      • by karnal ( 22275 )

        I hope we see one of two scenarios play out with what you're speaking of:

        1. Tethering. For a low added cost - not the easily double cost of adding tethering to an existing account. I would be willing to pay $5 more to be able to tether to my laptop - even at the crippled 5GB limit imposed by most (all?) carriers today. With ATT, my current carrier, they want another $30 on top of the $30 I pay them already for the PDA plan.

        2. That GSM/3g modem in your netbook? Would be cool to see it tied to the alrea

        • The problem is that you have cell carriers installing DS3s into their cell towers. This basically means that the carriers have no interest in people using more cell broadband. Most people I know with an iPhone or myself with a WinMo phone don't use the 3G Internet because it rarely works as advertised depending on if you're in a crowded place or rural area. We end up using WIFI instead which the netbooks already support. But I think there is a place for both. I don't imagine I'll be hooking up a USB-to-seri
    • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:42PM (#30615646) Journal

      The netbook is just the first of many. We got a nice device outside of the Wintel duopoly and people discovered that they loved it. Then the duopoly imivated their own version, locking down specs and defining it to be what they wanted it to be - in the process driving up the price and netting them a bunch of embarassing low-margin sales, but at least preventing the other guys from reaping the full benefit of their innovation. If OEMs want to create new things and keep control of the markets they create all that's needed is to avoid platforms Windows can run on.

      I think that OEMs are coming to understand that there is a market for any device that enables and empowers individuals to do new things - if it's portable and reliable and doesn't impose unnecessary restrictions. It's not really about the widget, it's about the people.

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

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


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

    • Thank you. Somebody please mod this to 11, it illustrates the entire article.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fishchip ( 1203964 )
      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 kic
    • 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 cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:38PM (#30615628)
        You would not need to have a DVD drive if you could easily transfer the files to your disk, so you could playback the media.

        CDs and DVDs are overrated. A USB pen can store a lot more in a smaller form factor.

      • It's not a failure because the majority of mobile device users haven't embrace it. I have DVD drive on my Thinkpad. I've used it maybe twice in three years. All my data comes to me over the wire instead of on dead dinosaur media. Burn CDs? Hello, iPod?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        That's very true. That said, part of what makes the netbook so appealing is that the lack of processor power gives it the potential for battery life that wouldn't be practical with a faster CPU. I'd like a computer primarily for word processing, occasional light duty coding, etc. that I can carry easily with me on multi-hour airplane flights.

        Here's what I want in a Netbook:

        • Reduced footprint/display height for use on airplanes
        • Average of 12 hour battery life
        • Dual-core Atom CPU
        • A real desktop OS like Linux
    • I don't see them as necessarily opposed. Consumers want general computing power for any of their gadgets, but they can be differentiated by their user interface or other methods which emphasize a specific task.
      For example the iPhone and Blackberry are both smartphones, however their design differences are tuned to different audiences. You can do pretty much any task on each device, but the iPhone is geared towards seeing/listening to media, while the Blackberry's keyboard makes productivity applications e
  • 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.

    • 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.

      • "That leaves room for a speed race"

        Whenever I see another "eee killer", I ask one question: What is the price? More than eee? Sorry, this won't fly.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      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

      The Pandora PDA, (finally) due out this month, runs a Linux operating system and can run any Linux app that either is free software or is recompiled for ARM, which fits in RAM, and whose window fits in 800x480px.

      though as we move more of our data and applications online the local operating system will become increasingly irrelevant.

      Web applications won't dethrone local applications until WebGL and offline storage extensions become commonplace. Games written in JavaScript have limits, and not everybody wants to have to buy a $1,440 per 24 months service plan in order to work away from Wi-Fi.

      • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

        Right now I am in limbo. I am waiting for both Open Pandora and the Touch Book to allow regular orders. Both use the same basic processor and have similar stats, though the touch book is more netbook and the pandora is more portable game system. The first one to ship will get me to buy one this year.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      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".

      • I agree - I just found out how to get internet on my phone (without paying verizon) and it's nearly unusable unless you're looking for windows mobile apps to install directly.

        As far as watching videos: My S10 does a fine job with DVD rips, even the high-quality ones. Not sure about Blu-Ray rips, but no need for those here.

        I love my netbook because it's small; it's great for wardriving on a bus (Yes, I can't drive) and it's perfect for in classes, since most professors don't care about the tiny, quiet compu

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

    • What I think we are actually seeing is just that there isn't going to be a special class of "netbook" anymore. Low end laptops and high end netbooks are unifying to a degree. There are laptops that pack all the high end goodies but are extremely small. There are also netbooks that feature larger screens and such, but still use low power CPUs and so on. More or less, there are just a bunch of portable computers for whatever purpose people want.

      So while the concept of a special "netbook" may go away, cheap sm

  • 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.
    • Microsoft (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> 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 [], 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?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nxtw ( 866177 )

        its limit of 32 MB of RAM per process

        CE 6 increased process address space to 1 GB

        For example, what CE web browser can display SWF objects?

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

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          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?

      • 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.

      • I’m sorry???

        That’s like saying that a website’s fatal flaw is, that it can’t be used in that criminally on-purpose incompatible and on top of that more buggy than a bag of insects horrible piece of shit that is the Internet Explorer!

        It’s the other way around: Mircosoft’s fatal flaw, that will completely kill off Microsoft and will make Ballmer eat his own chairs, is that they are unable to adapt to modern platforms. Small mobile computers, huge supercomputern, hell, Micro

    • When is ARM going to release a 64-bit processor? Perhaps they should be concentrating on improving their CPU cores rather than trying to compete with GPU manufacturers.
      • Why would they need a 64-bit processor?

        Does the size of the number impress you? Is it because it's bigger than 32-bit and therefore "obviously" better?

      • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

        the vast majority of arm processors are fabbed with all components, including RAM on one chip. They won't need a 64bit processor until people start putting close to 4 gigs of ram on chip (most are in the 64meg to 512 meg range). Supposedly qualcom is releasing a dual core 1.5 ghz arm chip with a gig of ram sometime this year, we will see where it goes from there.

  • 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 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 tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:21PM (#30615536) Homepage Journal

        Who waits for booting when you can just put the machine to sleep/hibernate when you're not using it?!?

        People who have to make do with broken device drivers that come out of sleep with no sound or (worse) no video. I've seen it happen in both Windows and Linux.

        • Our ASUS Eeepc 1005HA works flawlessly out of the box.

        • by nxtw ( 866177 )

          People who have to make do with broken device drivers that come out of sleep with no sound or (worse) no video. I've seen it happen in both Windows and Linux.

          I've been using boring 945GM systems daily for almost four years, and have had very few power management problems (in Windows). They all have the same disk driver, same HD Audio interface, and same graphics device. Each system worked fine with the drivers included.

        • My eee 900 with ubuntu 8.04 does it, for one. Going to try installing 9.10 and see if that helps.

    • by FatSean ( 18753 )

      While the touchpad on our Eeepc 1005HA is indeed annoying, a $15 mini wireless mouse cleaned that up. The low vertical resolution is just part of the packaging if you want a physically small device. We run browsers full screen and it's great. I dunno what the boot time is, we've only booted it a few times. Hibernate works great and it resumes in seconds with the OEM XP installation.

      I think you are whinging about a device not designed for you.

    • A lot of that could be fixed with a Instant-on OS that bolts to the main OS, such as Splashtop. I find I use that often on my S10e for fast internet browsing, but can still boot into windows when I need to.

    • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *

      > It is not clear if the net book is a good idea,...

      If you are a customer it is clear, customers bought the crap outta them. If you are a PC maker it was clear they were a danger and to Microsoft they are a mortal threat. Understand this difference in perspective and everything is clear.

      The first attack was Microsoft insisting that netbooks run Windows by threatening the venders OEM deals on their other more profitable lines and on the other hand essentially giving XP away for less than the bundleware.

    • I find he GP is right about the screen size though. The biggest improvement I'd make to netbook is to move to a 1024x768 or better resolution screen. I'd even give up a bit more processor power for it. The screen resolution is what I find really crippling about my netbook. If it had a better screen, I could probably even use it for software development, instead of limited browsing, etc.
    • Of course with the netbook craze, every laptop manufacturer wanted to release an "eee killer".

      That usually meant stuffing more expensive hardware in bigger form factor and charging more money for it. So they were in fact trying to make a netbook that is more like a laptop and less like a netbook. To me, that seems like fundamental lack of understanding of netbook market.

      They could have made a true eee killer. Giving it the same specs as eee and reducing price by 20%.
      The power of netbooks is:
      - full PC. No AR

  • Rising prices? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:00PM (#30615384)

    What's he talking about? The Wikipedia says the Eee PC was introduced at a price of $399 US. Taking a wander around the racks at the local electronics retailer suggests that the average netbook, which has considerably better specs than the Eee is priced around $300-$350 CAN, which some being as cheap as $250 CAN.

  • 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.

    • i dont know from where the shitty need to link everything with social networks and whatnot comes.

      Possibly because the "low end office PC" has started to become inadequate for users' needs in the face of web sites' abuses of SWF and the like.

  • Not for a lot of us. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:06PM (#30615416)

    Mine (Acer aspire) was less than $300, is small and light enough to take along every day, and
    is powerful enough to support the work I do (sw development). All three are important for me
    to have my work with me all the time. Any more expensive and I'd think twice about taking it
    everywhere. At $300 if I loose it or break it it's annoying but easy enough to replace. Any
    bigger or heavier and I'd think twice about throwing it in my backpack every day. Any less power,
    or no keyboard, and I couldn't do my work. It's in the sweet spot for portable computing. Sure
    more battery time would be nice, but not at the expense of the keyboard, the power, or the
    manageable size and low cost.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Exactly. Some people don't understand that netbooks fill exactly the same niche that Sony Vaio's filled before them: lightweight universal computers, but with display and keyboard large enough to be productive for the most computer task. "Universal" is important part here: some people would browse the web, others would write some documents, watch films, sort pictures from photocameras or even play games. I even have IDE installed and happily code while on the road. You cannot do that with smartphone!

  • 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.

    • I don't know about an Atom-Killer (I prefer Atom-Smasher for reasons I feel explain themselves) but they have perfectly competitive products in both single and dual-core configurations; ULV Athlon 64 L110 for single, Athlon Neo for dual. I can only speak to the performance of the single-core, which beats the pants off the basic Atoms with lame graphics against which they are positioned in the market.

  • The distinction between "netbook with keyboard" and "tablet with keyboard emulator" is more a choice of the options you're interested in than a difference in technology.

    With luck, the current generation of dedicated ebook readers will shuffle off to proprietary hell, and low end netbooks and tablets will replace them as the high end of handhelds.

    But not running pure tethered platforms like Chrome OS, please.

  • Evolving != dying (Score:4, Informative)

    by toppavak ( 943659 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:17PM (#30615504)
    It seems that netbooks in the 7-9" range have started to disappear, instead they've grown slightly (both in size and specs) to essentially have become 10" cheap laptops. I know many people that use them as machines to take while traveling (especially internationally) and even more people that use them as their primary portable (typically with a larger laptop or desktop relegated to, well, the desk). $300 for a small, durable laptop with more than enough performance to do word-processing, web browsing and watch movies on, most which get 5+ hours of battery life (depending on usage) is still an amazing deal.

    A good indication of their continuing success is the fact that 10" netbooks still account for 4 out of 5 of the top sellers [] in the computers and accessories categories on Amazon.
    • by nxtw ( 866177 )

      Many 9" netbooks were physically the same size as 10" models. The 9" screens usually had the same resolution (1024x600) as do the 10" screens.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LurkerXXX ( 667952 )

      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 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by snowgirl ( 978879 ) *

      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

  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rrohbeck ( 944847 )

      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 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.

    • When I owned an Acer Aspire ONE, I wanted to browse the web and fart around on the internet.

      When I found out that Youtube would be hit or miss, I got a little angry, but didn't get angry with the machine because quite honestly, the price was right.

  • 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 )

  • Cheap, small, foldable screen or keyboard (so you can use it as touchscreen or laptop), good (not great, just enough) resolution and speed, Thats the point to which a lot of things seems to be converging, from the cellphone arena (i.e. the Nokia N900, Palm Pre or some Android based phones ) or the note/net books arena (like the Asus T91, Fujitsu Lifebook and a lot of others) and probably more around (iSlate?). 3G connection, gps, even tv receiver are usual extras.

    So netbooks have a future, at least if can b
  • To me, what's important about a netbook, is:

    1) size -- 7" - 12" screen

    2) price -- under $600

    3) functionality -- runs the basics (real web browser, terminal or dedicated ssh client, vnc viewer, IM, document viewers)

    4) shape -- the above things can also be applied to "tablets", but the difference between a mid-range tablet and a mid-range "clamshell" is the keyboard. The "mid-range clamshell" is a "netbook" (with or without the swivel screen/convertible tablet capability). Not a smartbook, not a sub-noteboo

  • 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.

  • They were just a smaller laptop. Certainly, blurring the lines is going to happen.

  • 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?

  • It's widely recognised that the netbook craze took laptop manufacturers by surprise. Sales of more expensive laptops were lost as people flocked to buy the cheap, highly portable and "good-enough" devices that they actually wanted. Now the industry is trying to kill off the monster they have created, with opinion pieces like this one. No-one's paying the slightest attention, of course - people know what they want, and they'll continue to buy it, no matter what the media tells them they ought to be doing.
  • 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?

  • 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

  • Is the 12.1" powerbook I have on my desk retroactively a netbook? Other than the fact it does have an optical drive? Now I see some "netbooks" with 11.6" screens and are only $50 less than the 15" "laptops" setting right next to them with a full sized keyboard, a better processor, and more RAM.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • synopsis (Score:3, Informative)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:06PM (#30616186) Homepage

    So basically, the article says netbooks are going to fail because of:

    * rising netbook costs
    * smartphones increasing in functionality
    * ARM preeminence on the horizon
    * specialized devices (ie Kindle and kin) serving people's needs

    Basically, what it boils down to, is "Netbooks are too expensive now due to Windows".

    Frankly, I think the article is full of crap. The netbook isn't going anywhere; in fact, I think we'll see netbooks getting more features in the coming year, reducing their cost and/or increasing their diversity. Namely:

    * That Pixel Qi or whatever screen which is viewable in direct sunlight we've been hearing about. Who needs a Kindle (for only $100 less) which is a crippled device, when you can get a full computer?
    * "Convertible" displays (ie tablets), again challenging the Kindle
    * Touchscreens

    Granted, if ARM based devices can get into the market in the sub-$300 range and have all of those above features, I don't see why they wouldn't be able to "compete" with Intel based machines - x86 Windows and x86 apps included.

    Personally, I've been waiting for better part of a decade for what is, essentially, a modern ARM tablet with a low-power display (loooong use) which is also similar to the NEC MobilePro 790 and/or 900. Might actually have a chance of that at some point. Surfing the internet from the top of a mountain after weeks of being there, via packet radio, would be so cool...

  • 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. [] 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 [] 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 Technomancer ( 51963 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @08:45PM (#30617750)

    I completely agree with the guy. We need more specialized devices. Unfortunately clothing manufacturers are not keeping up with the number of pockets required for them but they will see the light.
    Look at my gadget bag, its perfect, cell phone, Peek, Twitterpeek, Celio Redfly, iPod touch, Epson photo viewer, Canon ELPH digital camera and EeePC. I can't wait for Peek to release Facepeek for Facebook!
    I am also looking for Palm Fooleo on eBay. I dont understand why they have cancelled this device. It would be great seller and would help Palm much more than stupid Pre and WebOS.
    I really need to buy more crappy ARM powered one function devices because my bag looks empty. Ian Drew, than you for your vision of the future, I can't wait!

Logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.