Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Netbooks, Microsoft and Apple

(Taking a break from comic book blogging)

Netbooks are currently the hottest part of the PC market. These are loosely defined as an low-cost, low-power, ultra-light PC with a screen no larger than 10 inches and with a long battery life. Both Microsoft and Apple have made some disparaging remarks about this market segment. Microsoft expects it to vanish when the new line of thin-screen PCs are introduced. Apple refuses to discuss making inexpensive hardware but there are rumors that their new tablet computer will be aimed at this market. I don't think that either company understands the market.

Let's be honest - netbooks are lousy PCs. They are under-powered for games and they have tiny screens. So why are they popular? Because they are so portable. Their small screens may be harder to read but they also reduce the size and weight enormously. They are underpowered because the high-powered chips suck up battery power. A more powerful CPU means more batteries and more weight or shorter battery life which means adding in the weight and size of a power brick. They are also cheap which is important because they are a second PC for most people.

I have a netbook. I got it for traveling. It is great at that. I can stick it in my carry-on. I don't need a separate PC bag which is bigger and heavier than my carry-on. The 10-inch screen is big enough for web browsing and email which is what I take it for in the first place. An IPhone-sized screen is just too small for serious web browsing.

The new, thin laptop PCs that Microsoft is pushing will be more expensive and they will not be as portable. No matter how thin you make it, laptop with a a full-sized screen is still bigger than a 10-inch one. Battery life will be a problem again, also.

Then there is cost. Microsoft is almost giving away Windows XP on netbooks. They want to sell Windows 7 for a lot more. That will add to the price. So will the new technology. These will not be priced to be second PCs.

It's hard to figure out what Apple's market will be. Rumors say that their tablet will be a larger IPhone. Without AT&T subsidies it will be a lot more expensive. Will people want something that expensive with no keyboard that is too big to put in a pocket? How many people use an IPhone as their primary computing device?

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