Intel: Netbooks aren’t for first time computer buyers

When netbooks first started hitting the market in 2007, there was a lot of guessing going around about who exactly these cheap, small, and underpowered laptops were supposed to appeal to. Because the first Asus Eee PC seemed to have a lot in common with the OLPC XO Laptop, one idea was that netbooks would appeal to new PC users in developing nations and customers in developed countries that didn’t have a lot of experience with computers. After all, these first generation machines had a simple version of Linux that was designed to make the operating system feel more appliance-like and less PC-like.

But over the past two years, it’s become clear that netbooks appeal to a wide range of people, from business professionals to educational institutions, to recreational users looking for something smaller, lighter, and cheaper than a 6 pound laptop.

So while Intel, and other companies that initially saw netbooks as a way to open up new markets, the company is changing its tune now… but still suggesting that netbooks will continue to help PC sales for the foreseeable future. That’s because instead of selling netbooks to new computer users, Intel sees PC makers selling netbooks as secondary machines, or as notebooks for kids.

According to an Intel spokesperson, most netbooks are bought by people that already have a PC or two.

I know many readers of this blog have said they feel netbooks are good enough to use as a primary computer. But how many of you have picked up a netbook to use instead of a pricier PC? I’m guessing most of you already have a bigger, bulkier solution for use around the house and picked up a netbook for its price and portability. Sound off in the comments.

  • MonkeyKing1969

    My itinerant gypsy like lifestyle means I use computer around town, otherwise I'm at work with more computer then I need/want most days. I don't have a big machine at home and in fact I did buy my netbooks as my primary computer for my own use. At work I have a wide choice of machines and thus I can slip in a few minutes of “personal work” in at the office.

    For me a netbook works just fine. I don't game on my computers preferring a game console for that task and as I said above if I wanted to crank off a letter or a spread-sheet I can do that at work eating my lunch at the desk. The bottom line is current netbooks are very suitable for average people. The next slew of netbooks will be better still, fixing the last loop-hole of video fidelity and power. Thus making the netbooks due this fall even more troublesome for the big computer makers pining for the old days.

    If Intel, Microsoft, and the big computer makers are worried now, they should be scared to death of the next two generations of netbooks.

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  • gclaudia

    I held off replacing my laptop because I didn't want to buy a new one with Vista on it. When I got my MSI Wind U100, I found that it met all my needs — once I got an external optical drive, so I could rip MP3s from my CD collection. The MSI Wind is now my primary computer and my Asus Eee 701 is my backup.

    I love the portability of the netbooks, being able to pick up and go is fantastic. 99.9% of what I do isn't CPU-intensive, nor does it require a lot of screen real estate, so I can't see myself ever getting a bulky laptop ever again. (I hate being stuck in one place, so I haven't used a desktop since the 90's.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Wilson-Azevedo/614016811 Wilson Azevedo

    Brad, since my first 7 inch EeePC, the netbook is my computer and that's enough: I don't use any other PC than this Dell Mini 9 from which I write these words. I don't need another computer because I do have one. Ok, I live in a developing country, Brazil, but, thanks God, I have enough money to buy one or more notebooks and desktops. So why would I buy other computer if with this one I can do all things I want or need to do?

  • bbneo

    Guess again, bat breath.

    I have 10 year old machines at home as well as a 2.5 year old Dell Inspiron Notebook hobbled and unreliable with Windows Vista on it (… much more usable since I installed fedora Linux to dual boot on it).

    I'm replacing my primary, 10 year old Dell Optiplex full-tower home office machine with a Net “top” the size of a small book. Greener, meaner and a performance upgrade… with Windows XP, but I will partition the 160 Gb hard drive and install Linux to Dual boot as well.

  • pixel qi fan in waiting

    Do NOT need a primary computer that is a desktop first.

    I have set up at least 5 people with netbooks instead of desktop. They love em. Can find at auction old 15 or 17 inch LCD external monitor, USB keyboard, external hard drives (ones with RAID 1 that use 2.5″ and are USB powered), and external speaker system. They got a desktop using this AND when they want to go, or sit on the sofa and watch TV and do chat, internet stuff, etc… they can.

    I listened to the MeetMobility podcast the other day, and regarding APPLE going this way… if they used ARM SnapDragon, with Pixel Qi Screen, 20 hour battery life, with ability to do iTunes, AND with a Cell PHONE built in, well then Intel and Microsoft better WATCH out for that as then APPLE could ride that wave to #1. AND OpenOffice.org runs now on OSX (as do many other FOSS software titles).

  • oryoki

    I've owned a number of netbooks, and sold them all for one reason or another. I currently use an MSI net-top machine for testing Windows 7 (it runs just fine, thanks).

    That said, I think a netbook works just fine as someone's sole computer. If the choice is to buy a netbook, or go without a computer while you try to save enough money, I'd recommend buying now.

  • Zobeid Zuma

    Is a netbook good enough to be your primary computer? That depends entirely on who you are and what you are doing. It should be readily apparent that different people have *wildly* varying needs and expectations from their computers.

    For some fraction of users, the netbook can do everything they want. The question then becomes, “How big a fraction?”

    As I noted before, my Mini-9 has higher specs than my first iMac DV, which I used as my main computer for several years. That was some ways back, obviously. . . But have the kinds of things we do with computers really changed that much?

    This is a case where Moore's Law is working against Intel. They thrive on selling lucrative, high-spec processors, but it's getting harder to come up with applications that demand a high-spec processor.

    Aside from performance specs, the other thing limiting netbooks is their small keyboards, trackpads and screens. But that cuts both ways, being both a disadvantage and an advantage, depending on your need for mobility.

  • MatthewSavage

    The wife and I are moving to Okinawa, and will be living in student housing. I have a netbook which I have been using for school. We'll be giving our tower to my mother and buying a second netbook for my wife to use as primary computer.

    We only need a single shared external optical drive between us, we don't play games on the computer (well…. I play one, but it was made in 1996… my Acer can handle it), and our daughter finds it just the right size for her to type on (she's just about three).

  • as147

    This is just Intel trying to keep chip sales high by talking up the Netbook only as secondary device. It is typical marketing. Yes many people will already have a machine. But that is also the case when they replace their old laptop with a new laptop (whether it be a Netbook or traditional laptop).

    The key is how many are just using the netbook.

    I like many others have a standard laptop that is quite old and probably needs replacing. I purchased a 10.1 Samsung NC10 and haven't used my old laptop since.

    There are many folk who once having purchased a netbook will not use their original machine (whether it is ready for replacement or not).

    The question should be how many use thier Netbook as a primary device.

  • tomleemullins

    I guess it depends on what you use it for. I have two notebook computers that I use at home. My two netbooks do not replace either one. I have the netbooks since they are very portable and do what I want when away from home. I do not play games on any of my computers; some are just too difficult to control using a keyboard. I prefer my game consoles for that (2 of them). For surfing the web and some typing, my netbooks are great for these tasks. :)

  • susan7

    I've noticed that the lower economic classes in my area have gravitated to the netbooks as a computer solution, and by that, I mean they have adopted netbooks as primary computers. I am guessing this is because of a few factors:
    -the price fits what they can afford at this time, and if it is lost or stolen, they have not lost a month or more of minimum wage paychecks
    -the wireless connectivity is what they want, as these customers do not have internet service at home and use free wireless networks as their primary internet source
    -the portability/size factor means these customers do not need to invest $50 or $100 in a special padded bag to carry the computer around and that they can pick it up and go at pretty much any time
    -my poorer customers don't have any software they need to load from disc and consequently don't care about not having an optical drive. They tend to have a way to download music and media from the internet as well, and they are not opposed to free software, like OpenOffice, when they do need more than Microsoft works

  • jeffgraber

    I never use my netbook in the house, only when I'm traveling. My desktop is my primary machine.

  • nielsandersen

    My experience with two different netbooks (first the original Eee pc and then a MSI Wind) is that the screen resolution is a lot more limiting to what I want to do than the processor. Most apps are just downright wasteful with screen real estate and that makes for a really frustrating experience using basic office apps, google reader, google docs, picasa etc. Most web pages aren't really cut out for 1024×600 either. Everything just becomes too crammed and I almost feel claustrophobic when working on the netbook.

    I have high hopes for the new generation of CULV notebooks coming out in the 11.6-12″ size range with 720p displays. I think for me they are closer to finding the right balance between portability and usability.

  • trey

    Wrong.

    My mother, mom in law and two aunts have been retired for years but never really cared about computers. They sit with the grandkids and surf with them but never interested.
    When my wife and her two sisters and niece all got the Acer one and Dell Mini 9, those 70+yr old women thought they were cute and easy to carry (more so than the 15-17 HP, DELL and Acer monsters my uncles and dad use.

    We installed KDE desktops from various Linux OS for them, added webmail buttons as well for browser, IM and Skype (which they can use fullscreen) and theyre on it constantly now (but rarely deviate from what they do.)
    My mom often laughs that she cant believe she has a videophone (skype), that's THE apps that sold her on the internet, not email, browsing, etc… She can talk to friends in europe consistently.

    15-17inch laptops are beasts for the most part and the form factor of the netbook including its weight are a big part of the reason why these people got hooked.

    The netbook is a great companion even if you have a desktops and a regular laptop but for people with limited use, it can serve very well too.

    Not everyone needs a high powered CPU.
    Browsing, emailing, facebook/myspace/twitter, IM, youtube, skype, flashgames doesnt demand much.
    As an introduction to computing it does its job.

  • levill

    I would bet money that what you say is true about regular your readers/commenters (geeks of some level). I would be surprised if they had only one or two machines at home beyond the netbook. (Myself included here.) But take my mother in law for example. She will need to buy a new computer in the near future because that 512MB RAM, the Duron CPU is not cutting it, even if she fits on the 20GB HDD. I will recommend she buys a nettop when the day comes. (Will probably wait for Windows 7 to come out.) And had she have any interest in being mobile at all, I would be recommending a netbook.

    And she is a computer owner. For people without a computer, a netbook/top is a perfect choice. It is also perfect for people who want it for word processing, browser and email (ie. 80% of all computer users – though this is just a guess.)

  • whitewashasian

    actually i'm buying my new computer and it IS a netbook sucka! i'm a student-a really mobile student who is tired of dragging around heavy objects across campus. i'll have a desktop tower i'm stealing from daddy as a backup, but my prime time will be with my toshiba mini.

  • 257209

    i think that netbooks are for first time people. i am one of these people. when the hp mini 2133 first came out i thought it was the most beautiful laptop ever made and i wanted it so badly as if god put me on earth to buy this laptop thingy. now my friend has it and it was unbelievably slow with vista on a via processor underpowered and under clocked at 1 ghz. so it wasnt perfect when it first came out and i would have regretted it so much if i bought this for my first college laptop. i would probably throw it against the wall after getting frustrated with it, but knowing the superior buid quality of the 2133, it will probably never break. but now i have an msi wind for a first and it was exactly what i wanted. i also knew about trade offs like screen size and speed, but now i cant stand it anymore. i had it for about 3 months until i couldnt bear having such a small screen. because of this i bought a new bigger laptop that is the perfect balance between portability and screen size. it is a dell 13 incher and it is now perfect and everything i ever wanted in a laptop. i dont regret having a netbook either b/c it helped me get a better laptop of my tastes that is perfect for me. plus it was an impulse buy of 250.00 during 2008 so it didnt burn a hole in my pocket to find the perfect laptop. now its my friend's netbook to help him figure out his perfect laptop.

  • k7_800

    i had a desktop but sold it, also my wife.

    both using no netbooks (Asus Eee PC 1000H and 1000HE) and are more than happy with this solution.

    netbooks are our first choice because of price, weight and power for our needs.

  • dospelicanos

    I travel a lot so when my 14.1″ celeron M laptop (XP Home, 1.6GHz, 1GB RAM) turned 3 years old and the Aspire One 8.9″ (without XP – using Win7 RC) dropped to £150 with 1GB RAM and a 120GB hard disk I made the switch. I am much happier living with a smaller keyboard and screen than an extra 2.5kg (taking into account weight of larger bag for larger laptop as well)!! The speed in real world use feels much faster than my old Celeron M I guess due to the netbook having a much faster hard disk and Win 7. The only thing that is still a drag is working with RAW images from my DSLR, but I'm patiently waiting for a ~1.3kg CULV laptop with proper (nVidia Ion) graphics to fix that!!

  • Mikez

    I got caught up in the NetBook fever early, now have three different ones.
    But I am way outside of what Intel thinks of as the “NetBook Market”.
    Two of the machines are used for dedicated purposes indoors, at home.
    The other sits here, ready to be a stand-in for anything that fails.
    - – – -
    For me, I think it was the low prices for “complete” computer systems
    along with the small size and low power consumption.
    - – – -
    If you really need computing power, then get something that does that
    as its main design goal. I did.
    I have one of the Intel “profit margin monsters” for that sort of work.
    Do you hear that Intel? Don't blacklist me just yet.

  • kate8277

    Oh dear, Brad, Brad, Brad – you silly silly boy.

    'I'm guessing most of you already have a bigger, bulkier solutioin for use around the house and picked up a netbook for its price and portability'?

    You are, perhaps, right, but maybe you're also being presumptuous. (Which is possibly not the case, but hey…)

    Once upon a time I had a computer that thankfully died, taking a hell of a lot of data with it. Reason being, I have a young brother who enjoys going to sites I would rather he didn't.

    After having a couple of years of no computer, it occurred to me. I don't play games, I don't download anything, I only jump online to search things and check my email. All I really do is write hefty documents.

    Basically speaking, I have no need for a desktop at all, so my netbook is my one and only choice. I could only really see a PC as a necessity to the Runescape slaves and home-based pirates. (Though I could possibly be generalising…)

  • nashxioh

    netbooks are overpriced here in my country.i'd prefer buying laptop than buying netbooks.Netbook is provides basic stuffs like web browing but it's very limited

    computer keeps freezingI don't know why

  • computer keeps freezing

    netbooks are overpriced here in my country.i'd prefer buying laptop than buying netbooks.Netbook is provides basic stuffs like web browing but it's very limited

    computer keeps freezingI don't know why

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    People aren't choosing netbooks because it's all they can afford. …. the developed world still has “first-time” computer buyers?

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    People aren't choosing netbooks because it's all they can afford. …. the developed world still has “first-time” computer buyers?

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