So far AMD has left the netbook market to chip makers Intel and VIA. But with netbooks accounting for as much as 10% of all notebook sales in Europe, it’s not a market that any chip maker can really afford to ignore forever (unless you believe that netbooks are a fad which will die down – which I don’t). AMD CEO Dirk Meyer recently told a group of financial analysts that the company will lay out its strategy for netbooks at a meeting with analysts on November 13th.
AMD’s head of marketing, Pat Moorhead has been bashing netbooks for months, saying they’re not as powerful as full sized computers, and therefore not as useful. That would be a completely valid criticism — if netbooks were supposed to be able to play Crysis, edit videos, or perform other CPU intensive tasks. I mean, they are full fledged computers, and they can do those things, but not very well. And I don’t think anybody really expects them to.
As evidence, Moorhead suggests that he took an MSI Wind with a 3-cell battery on a trip recently and that it just couldn’t handle the tasks he threw at it. What were those tasks? Editing videos, watching 720p video, and watching online video from the NBC Olympics web site.
First, I don’t know why anyone would need to watch 720p videos on a 1024 x 600 pixel display, but I suppose if you have 720p videos that you don’t want to re-encode, this is fair. Second, he doesn’t say anything at all about what settings his MSI Wind was running at. The computer is capable of running at 800MHz or 1.6GHz. And I’ve seen the Intel Atom CPU handle 720p video just fine when running at full speed. In fact, I just downloaded a video from Microsoft’s WMV DH Content Showcase to double check, and sure enough, it ran smoothly on my Eee PC.
Second, Moorhead claims that he only got an hour and a half of battery life. Kevin Tofel of jkOnTheRun has a Wind with a 6 cell battery. Running at full speed, it gets about 3 hours and 39 minutes of battery power. Divide that in half, and you get 1:50, not 1:30. But that’s beside the point, because when running on power saving mode, Kevin got nearly 5 hours of run time, which means you should be able to get 2:30 from a 3 cell battery if you’re using it for web surfing, reading documents, or other light use. Moorhead seems to have ommitted this fact, only pointing out that the battery life isn’t that good when running at full speed doing the sorts of tasks that of course you would expect a more powerful computer to do better.
Oh, and Moorhead also says the MSI Wind he bought cost $579. But even when MSI first released the netbook, it only cost $499 with a 3 cell battery. The 6 cell version sold for $570. So if he paid $579 for a Wind with a 3 cell battery, he got ripped off. Today, you can pick up a Wind with a 6-cell battery for $530
or a 3 cell version for as little as $399 after rebate.
So it sounds to me like AMD’s been busy making excuses instead of chips. Will that change next month? I guess we’ll know on November 13th.