Friday, August 8, 2008

How many PC's do you need?

If your household is anything like mine, you'll have a main 'family' desktop PC or two at home and a laptop for use in front of the TV or on the move. However, computer makers hope they can pursuade you that that's just not enough. They would have us believe our PC estate won't be complete without a mini-notebook for surfing the Web at the coffee shop.

Manfacturers including Acer, Asus, Dell and Hewlett-Packard are creating this market with low-cost mini-notebooks. Intel®, which manufactures its Atom processors for such devices, coined the term "netbooks" to describe these cheap, ultra-mobile, internet-connected laptops.

Asus was first to market with its much-hyped, lightweight, low-cost subnotebook called the Eee PC. Despite these solid-state memory devices selling out prior to Christmas, they were lacking in some respects, specifically storage. Since then though, Asus has been quick to release more roomy versions that will satisfy all but the most demanding users.

With the success of the Eee - Asus have sold more than 2 million of them - it was only a matter of time before other manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon. HP followed with its Mini-Note in April and Acer with the Aspire One notebook a couple of months later. Dell will release its interpretation - the Dell E series - later this month.

But could the success of these diminutive devices be at the cost of sales revenue in the traditional laptop market? There's surely a risk of cannibalising the market for higher-priced, full-function notebook PCs. Well, no...

Market research firm IDC forecasts worldwide shipments of ultra-low-cost notebook PCs to jump from fewer than 500,000 units in 2007 to more than 9 million in 2012. But with low selling prices, sales will be less than $3 billion in 2012. By comparison, total laptop computer sales that year could total 282 million units, or $213 billion, IDC says.

IDC's David Daoud says "The netbook market is being driven by the PC makers. They're trying to stimulate demand among consumers for a new type of computing device."

Computer makers are targeting netbooks at young, first-time PC customers as well as experienced notebook owners. They're convinced users will be interested in an Internet device that's bigger than a smart phone but smaller than a traditional notebook computer. They say customers will appreciate a small, lightweight device that they can whip out in a coffee shop, plug in their mobile broadband dongle and surf the Web in a matter of seconds.

I for one, get the feeling it's not going to be too long before our PC family has a new toddler for us to play with!

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