Conventional wisdom about 18 months ago was that netbooks were designed for children and developing markets. After all, that was the market that the OLPC Foundation was targeting, and what was the OLPC XO Laptop if not the first netbook? Asus took some cues from the OLPC project with the first Eee PC by building a tiny laptop which was a bit more durable than conventional laptops thanks to the use of flash memory instead of a hard drive. But Asus, Intel, and other major players assumed that computers with tiny screens and keyboards, little processing power, and little storage space wouldn’t appeal to grownups in developed nations in Europe, Asia, and North America.
But you know what appeals to grownups? Bargains. And after we’d all been told for decades that you had to pay a premium for a small and light computer, the idea of a sub-$400 laptop that weighs less than 3 pounds was too appealing to pass up. And netbooks began selling like crazy in developed nations in 2008.
Apparently Intel Senior VP Anand Chandrasekher never got the message. Because CNET reports that he told the audience at the Intel Developer Forum that netbooks are still for kids.
One of his basic assertions is sound: There are certain things that you can do with a more powerful notebook that you can’t do on a netbook. For instance, I wouldn’t expect a cheap netbook to play Call of Duty 4, at least not without an NVIDIA Ion chipset. But that doesn’t mean it’s not for adults. Becuase it turns out that often all adults need from a computer is a good web browser, internet connection, access to Office software, and a few other applications. And netbooks handle those just fine.
While some netbooks are certainly being purchased and used by school districts, that’s not the primary market for most mini-laptops today.
Of course, back in November, another Intel executive indicated that while the chip maker had expected netbooks to sell in developing markets, most mini-laptops were actually being sold in developed nations. So it appears that some people at Intel clearly understand that the netbook market has grown in ways the company didn’t really expect. But there’s one message that Intel has been sending consistently: Netbooks are not as powerful as full sized laptops. Translation: Please buy our more expensive products too.