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.

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9 replies on “Intel’s mixed messages: Netbooks aren’t for grownups, wait yes they are”

  1. I have to admit I vacillate between fury and laughing when the computer industry tries to diminish mini-notebooks. I suppose I should just calm the ____ down sometimes, but it irks me all the same that the industry seem bent on selling us what makes them the most profit instead of what consumers need that would still be profitable.

    Mini-notebooks could open up the market, placing not just a second computer in some homes but a first computer in hundreds of millions more homes. And, without a doubt small notebooks could be the second computers in just as many homes as well. These small inexpensive computers could be an insanely large market if the industry doesn’t wreck it. Environmentally speaking, maybe that is horrible, but as a goal for the tech industry from top to bottom more computers would be helpful you would think.

  2. I think the Intel executives are upset because we are cutting into there bonuses, and the consumer is not allowing them to pull the wool over there eyes like AIG did the U.S Government. Other than that I have 2 words for Intel’s executives “PIN HEADS”

  3. I’m of two minds about this:

    On the one hand, if I were one of the higher-ups at Intel I’d be frustrated that I can’t control the narrative of this little revolution. Any company in the world would want to herd more customers toward their more profitable offerings, and I understand that.

    However. It’s almost galling how much hubris their little talks and web articles show. Guess what, Intel? Customers *haven’t* changed in the way you wanted them to. By and large we still need our basic internet and small applications. More of us are going to consoles for our more complex gaming.

    We want a simple way to do simple things outside the home, or even in it on the couch or in bed. You provided a nearly perfect way to do that, and it’s only improving all the time.

    And let’s not forget the simple fact that you’re making money with this. The others(ARM, Via, perhaps someday Nvidia or even AMD…) were caught well off guard, and you own this market. It dilutes my sympathy for the situation, to say the least.

    We’re simpler animals than you realize, Intel. And the incredible increases in processing power…well, there are limits. It can’t be up and up and up forever. Enjoy what you have, and please, let us do the same.

    1. You forget the basic matra, what Intel gives, Microsoft takes away. It has always worked on the desktop. Lets hope it does not work on netbooks.

      1. I’m thinking those days are numbered.

        First, we have the fact that for most people, XP is enough. It’s perfectly fine, and runs perfectly well on netbooks, from the original celeron based books to our new Atomic overlords.

        Secondly, Microsoft is learning to do more with less. Look at all the articles that show that Windows 7 runs wonderfully on netbooks. It’s simply a better operating system than Vista was, and has lower overhead as a result.

        There will, for the foreseeable future, be things Netbooks aren’t suited to. Video, audio, 3D, and picture editing immediately come to mind. The same is true for modern gaming at high levels.

        But we’re always moving forward. I really do think that with the release of the Intel CoreDuo and athlon 64×2, we reached a tipping point. Basic PCs are good enough. And it’ll only improve. Intel even now is planning their new 2GHZ atoms, and I’m sure beyond those are multi-core chips that improve things. Even on the graphics front we’ll soon have the GN40 chipset which improves things. Someday there’ll be a Larrabee based integrated chip that, if it lives up to its potential(Which admittedly is a tall order, especially for Intel), would improve things even more.

        Now of course there’s always the chance that something new will come around that will lay waste to these boxes’ usefullness. Perhaps the windows version after next, or some new computing paradigm.

        But…it’d take a *lot*. Microsoft has been chastened by their Vista experience, and whatever new technology that might come along…it’d have to be an absolute game changer. Something everyone wants to be using, an be an *incredibly* powerful piece of software.

        And even then, there’ll always be linux. I can replicate so much of my windows functionality there, and even beyond.

        Based on what I see now…I don’t see that happening. I think we’re in a good place right now, and I only see better things ahead.

  4. Someone should tell Intel that the Genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in.

    1. yup …. after having fulfilled 3 wishes / spells they are free ….

  5. What this post needs is some humor – –

    Moore’s Law (revised):
    “Customers can be convinced to spend twice as much money
    for their computers every three years.”

    (Gorden Moore was a co-founder of Intel.)

  6. this … and now they continue the story by bluntly lying consumers into their faces …. that is not marketing, but awfully stupid

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