Audio/Video, Business, Hardware

Story #100: Netbooks Part III – The OEMs Comment

So far, we covered the netbook market from a couple of different angles. In one we discussed about how the netbook market grew from its intended purpose into an overpriced gadget. Next, we talked about how consumers are being misled about what a netbook is and does.

Today, we will cover the netbook from the perspective of a couple of netbook manufacturers. We were promised a free and open conversation with them under the condition of anonymity. We also have asked Intel and nVidia for their points of view on this topic, which will be published in Part IV of this series. It might seem odd to ask the companies responsible for making the actual products but sometimes you can get a feel for what is going on with a market by talking directly to the driving forces behind that market.

The first company we spoke with a large company that is a new comer to the netbook market – at the time of writing, the company has yet to release a netbook in the US. Their take on the netbook segment was interesting and a little different from that I had though. I was expecting a Kool-Aid drinking stance either in favor of Intel or nVidia. Instead I see that they have their own views.

For the most part they feel the need for 1080p resolutions in small devices will stay within the HTPC segment. They felt that small HTPC case will be the perfect format for the ION platform – but they also added something that I did not expect. They commented on the recent reduction in the price of LCD monitors and screens adding that with their lower costs small (stylish) HTPC devices might become the next big hit.

Again the small HTPC is a perfect market for ION with its 1080p Blu-Ray playback and of course support for CUDA and OpenCL APIs. They did not seem to think that ION built into new netbooks will hurt the existing netbook market (except to raise prices); but felt that with a $600-700 price tag most gamers will go for a desktop or a more fully featured notebook with a larger screen. They remained focused on the fact that the netbook is for people looking for a mobile device larger than a smart phone for internet connectivity and basic office productivity.

The other manufacturer I contacted has been in the netbook market for a long time and was one of the first to offer them as a viable portable work system. They split netbooks and notebooks into categories divided by price and functionality. They felt that as time progresses netbooks and notebooks would grow towards each other in terms of both of these factors. This will happen as netbooks gain more features and power and notebook prices drop to compete with netbooks. They agreed that there is some truth to the argument that as netbooks gain more features and power they could be drifting away from the original intent of a small inexpensive device with long battery life. They were not at all certain that the netbook would go away or if it would simply evolve into another identity.They wrapped things up by saying that as manufacturers offered more features in netbooks for consumers, the continued development of the netbook segment was helpful in terms of the development of their product line

We were all disappointed, but not surprised, that they did not comment on the introduction of ION platform and its impact on the netbook market. True, this is an extremely narrow market perspective with only two netbook manufacturers – but it does serve a point that the netbook platform is an unstable thing. No one seems to know what direction it will or should be going in. Following these two conversations, we got a pretty good idea why they requested anonymity. At the moment we are speaking with other manufacturers on this subject – stay tuned as we follow up with their comments and where they feel the market is going.

Our Next Installment – Intel and nVidia’s points of view.