Thursday, February 19, 2009

The netbook train rumbles onwards - heading below $200 this year

The NYT has been paying a lot of attention to the netbook* train -- the train that's going to run over the industry in the next year or two. They recognize this isn't about features, it's about hitting the $125 2011 Barbie b-smart netbook batteries-not-include price point. They haven't quite figured out that Google's advantage isn't merely Microsoft's (avoidable?) doom, it's Google's Chromestellation strategy, but they're getting there ...

Can Cellphones Grow Up to Rival PCs? - Saul Hansell -

... Coming by the end of this year are a new crop of small inexpensive notebook computers, known as netbooks, based on the ARM microprocessor design and running one of several versions of Linux, including perhaps Google’s Android cellphone operating system. ..

... Netbooks have been a rapidly growing category of computers, mainly because they are more portable and typically cost $400 or less. So far they have been mostly based on Intel’s Atom chip, which uses its X86 instruction set and thus can run Windows. Some manufacturers, including ASUS and Hewlett-Packard have also offered versions of their netbooks that run Linux, but these have not yet been popular in the market.

Some argue this will change as the combination of an ARM processer and Linux may allow netbooks to be sold for $200 or less.

Earlier this week, Freescale, the chip company spun out of Motorola, announced a new high end chip, based on the latest ARM designs specifically for netbooks. This follows a similar announcement by Qualcomm last month...

... its chip will cost about $15 each when bought in large quantities, with about $5 of other chips that support the processor; the Linux operating system, of course, is free. The company estimates that a computer maker would need to spend $50 to $60 on an Intel Atom, related chips, and Windows.

Mr. Burchers said that the company figures that the $200 netbooks will not have a hard drive, but will have 4 gigabytes to 8 gigabytes of flash memory. The devices will mainly be used, he figures, by people to surf the Internet. A few, more expensive models will be able to connect to cellular data networks, but mainly they will be aimed at young people who connect through Wi-Fi networks.

... No manufacturers have announced they are building netbooks using the chips, but Freestyle was showing a prototype manufactured by Pegatron, a Taiwanese affiliate of ASUS, that makes notebooks for a number of brands...

... Freescale is working with Linux makers to make them easier to use. The chip is designed to be used with Linux versions made by Phoenix Technologies, Xandros, and Canonical, which makes Ubuntu. Freescale added support for Android to its plans this year because computer makers said they see a market for it...

Close, but just wide of the mark. Android is just a smokescreen here. The real story is Google Chrome for Linux, and Google's "Chrome OS" strategy -- aka "Chromestellation".

Of course, let's not forget China's Godson project.

* Since the NYT is still using the term, Psion's trademark battle might be hopeless.

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