Speaking at a recent conference, an Intel executive said two rather interesting things. In a nutshell, he said that:

  • Intel had originally expected netbooks to work well for developing markets, but the bulk of netbook sales are now in developed nations like the US and European countries.
  • Netbooks, with their small screens and keyboards are fine if you want to use them for an hour or so, but you probably wouldn’t make it your primary computer.

Now, these two statements are getting a lot of press because it makes it sound like Intel doesn’t think netbooks are changing the face of computing and poised to replace the laptop. But umm… I don’t think Intel ever claimed that they would.

Netbooks have been good for companies like Intel because they’ve opened up two whole new market segments: Customers in developing markets who may not have purchased computers before, and people in developed nations who are interested in a cheap, portable laptop to carry around as a second or third computer. Some people will certainly find that a netbook does everything they need it to and that it can therefore replace a full sized laptop. But I seriously doubt that this is how most people think about the tiny laptops.

So I don’t think Intel is losing any faith in the netbook form factor. Rather, I think the company is suggesting that netbooks are good as an extra computer, not a primary computer. Because seriously, do you think Intel or any other chip or PC maker would try to convince you that their low end machines are good enough for everyday use and that you don’t need to buy one of their more expensive models?

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10 replies on “Intel: Netbooks aren’t really laptop replacements”

  1. the question is, what do one use the primary computer for…

    for me at the moment its mostly surfing, IM, mail and some media consumption.

    for this, the desktop i have is noisy, even after i have done what i can in terms of clock-down and low-noise fans.

    it also locks me to a desk, where i cant really be real-life social.

    a laptop, even in the cheap 14-15″ range, would be to bulky and noisy.

    and those 12″ ones are often to expensive.

    but the netbook is like a terminal to the internet. and for me, that would be perfect.

    and with a size thats in the range of a A4 spiral notepad, its a winner for me.

    i think intel and others have overestimated what computers are used for outside of the office. or maybe they use them so much in the office that they have become work blinded by it?

  2. “you probably wouldn’t make it your primary computer”

    PROBABLY. I’m using it as my “primary computer” for a year now.

  3. A netbook is the perfect secondary computer. I have a nice 15.4″ notebook, but I never use it anymore. No need, the netbook is smaller and does everything I need. It’s not going to replace full sized notebooks for everyone, but most people don’t need a lot of power on the go.

  4. In fact Intel is a bit astonished by Nebook’s success and make less margin than on conventional laptops. That maybe explains why they try to manipulate the opinion ” netbooks don’t change the face of computing” (ie : let’s hope regular laptops will remain mainstream so to save our margins)

    1. What’s worse for intel, netbooks eat away market for $2000 subnotebooks.

      Some laptop manufacturers apparently also don’t like that – I suspect it’s the main reason why Lenovo didn’t include Trackpoint in its S10 – it would be then practically as usable as X-series Thinkpads.

  5. Oh well. Intel didn’t understand what users wanted when they started the whole netbook thing, and it is pretty clear they still do not get it. All thanks to them, by the way, for their lack of insight, which has enabled the netbook revolution. Except for work related projects, which I knock out on my corporate issued laptop, my Aspire One has completely replaced my conventional laptop. It is the machine I have always dreamed of owning. Affordable. Capable. Portable. Perfect. I am not even interested in a 10 inch model.
    For more on this check out my blog entry at Cloudy Days and Netbook Nights. Netbooks: too good for their own good?

    1. Not surprising since Intel did not start the netbook thing. It was started by OLPC (in theory) and by Asus (in practice). Now OLPC has the developing world as its target, and Intel originally got in the game reacting to the OLPC design with the classmate (also theoretical at the time).

      So it was Asus that really gave us the real practical OLPC. And the Atom, Intel’s contribution, was hastily tailored to fit the Asus concept (although it was on the pipeline at the time). So credit should really go to Asus, not Intel. And, apparently, Intel is only now starting to “get it”!

  6. So in summary, netbooks are a bit of a compromise, and the developed world has the most money (even in times of recession) to blow on them. Not really that surprising, whoever says it!

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