It has been pointed out by the analysts at NPD that the overall growth of netbooks in the US went into negatives last month. This news has of course caused a lot of upheaval in the tech circuit, with everyone being really quick to blame Apple for this. We all know that the iPad has caused a significant damage to the whole portable segment this year but it cannot by itself account for sending a whole segment into negative growth.
There are multiple other factors at work here and the iPad is jut one of them. The overall sales of the mobile computer category has been going down lately in the country, with the US economy being in a bad state overall. The purchasing power of the average consumer is currently on the wane, pushing gadgets into the luxury category.
The shrinking budget that people have for gadgets is now going to things that make more of an impact on the consumer and iPad is definitely one of them this year. When the whole netbook explosion happened early 2008, there was a peak in budget-conscious buyers looking to fulfill their basic computing necessities. This made the netbook reach its peak by the middle of that year.
Back in last year also it became apparent that the netbook market was slowing down. For a segment that peaked initially, this slow down was all but expected. So what’s happening now? Well, the market is wrestling with the economics and the cannibalizing pressures of the iPad and finally stabilizing out too. So the sales figures will be weak for some more time to come before the iPad becomes a bit less ‘magical’ and the consumer has more money.
Just before CeBit 2010 hit the tech crowd, Asus’ latest crop of Eee PC models have leaked all over the internet. These are three new models that Asus is expected to debut at the CeBit show. The leak has been courtesy of Blogee, who is the source who claims the existence of these models. The leaks is a pretty good one actually — complete with pictures of the alleged models. I only say alleged because it is not official yet and there hasn’t been another such story but this rings pretty true. So start planning if you are in the market for a netbook.
The three models are — 1018P, 1016P and 1015P. These are all Pinetrail toting models, if there ever was a doubt about that. The 1015P is apparently a refresh of the 1005P model, with the newer additions being a larger touchpad and an aluminum shell. The matte seems to remain intact. The photo shows as much.
There aren’t any photos of the 1016P but it is supposed to have a business focus. Let’s hope that does not mean a premium finish and Windows XP. That is so totally not a great thing to do. It will apparently have chiclet keys, aluminum chassis and a squared off design. No ThinkPad obviously but just might do. The 1018P is apparently only 18mm thin and is supposed to be the thinnest netbook that Asus has ever made. It is also tipped to have a USB 3.0 port and a finger print scanner. My verdict — it will charge you a lot for things you will have no use for.
The 1015P and the 1016P are both expected to have a battery life of 14 hours, without the wireless on that is. The 1018P is supposed to last 10 hours, which again is pretty decent if you ask me.
Acer has plans for 2010 and it has plans to make it big. Or so it will seem from the number of things that they are planning to do this year. Starting with an eBook reader, something that almost everyone’s doing these days, they will go on to making a Chrome OS netbook, setting up a cross-platform application store and probably making the large number of mainstream computer models that they already make.
This being a netbook blog, I will focus on the netbook bit here but you really have to give it to the company for playing catch up like this! App store and eBook in one fell sweep! Of course, they are not going to release them both simultaneously but they sure have their fingers in a lot of pies.
Acer’s plant to launch a Chrome OS netbook should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who knows what the Chrome OS is. Not only is Google’s netbok OS free but just Android it will be developed and maintained by Google while being open to developers just like the Android. Seeing what Android has done to mobile companies like Motorola, it is obvious that Acer would like to get in on this.
In fact, as more time goes by, I fully expect to report Chrome OS announcements from all the major companies. That is because they are already making hardware that is not selling very well and if changing it around a bit to meet Google’s specifications can help them sell more, why not? After all, this promises to be a new platform and this might mean sales to individuals who otherwise would not have bought a new or a second netbook-class device.
The cross-platform app store that Acer is planning will have both Windows Mobile and Android apps when it launches and then in due course it will carry Chrome OS apps (the ones that you need to download, I presume). Details such as timing are a little vague right now but it is definitely coming this year according to them.
Toshiba has obtained the FCC’s approval for one of its latest netbook offering — the NB300. The details are scanty at this moment. It is more or less certain that this netbook will be similar in size to Toshiba’s existing offerings — the NB200/NB205.
Unlike the LG XNote LGX30, which uses the Poulsbo platform, the NB300 is using (supposedly) the Pineview platform. So it can be expeced in the first quarter (Q1) of 2010. As was last heard, Intel is still planning to announce the Pinetrail and Pineview Platforms in early 2010. The announcement would likely see a deluge of new Atom-based netbooks following it, offered by most of the major and minor players.
The NB300 is also highly likely to show up on the roster of one or more US carriers because it is apparently packing a Qualcomm 3G chip (the Gobi2000) so that it can connect to 3G network natively.
Out of all the companies that have been making netbook so far, only a few have reached a stage where people readily accept what they are offering. And although Toshiba is a well-known and well-respected brand in the notebook market, its netbooks have been received with a lukewarm response. Acer and Asus are currently enjoying a lot customer attention and hence they can afford to produce a wider array of netbooks. Even though Atom-based netbooks are extremely similar to each other, certain smaller component and design decisions actually influence the buyer’s decision a lot.
Toshiba has so far kept its build quality more or less intact but the company needs to up the Ante a bit more to strike it better in the already saturated market.
Rumors and spy shots have been doing their rounds on the Internet that carry the news of a ThinkPad series netbook that is being developed by Lenovo. There has been no official word on the matter but everyone is fairly certain that the images that have been leaked on the Internet are indeed of a genuine ThinkPad device that comes in the size that can only be called a netbook.
The device in the images looks extremely similar to all the current ThinkPad models and it has all the signature features that are visible on other devices of the line. The highlighted enter key, the touchpad and the navigation nub between keys g, h and b are all similar to what we are accustomed to see on standard ThinkPad devices. There is also a visible ThinkPad branding on the device.
But there are quite a few differences that are startling for most regular ThinkPad users. First, the size of the device seems quite smaller than the regular ThinkPads, which is why the netbook form factor claim is validated by the images. The traditional keyboard has been replaced with a keyboard that has isolated flat keys. Although this style is becoming popular on mid-range and high-end portables, the ThinkPad series has always retained certain legacy features for its dedicated business clientele (like the navigation nub).
The styling also seems to be different. This is probably the only ThinkPad in the market (if it is real) that has a white outer body. Almost all ThinkPads so far have been black or at least a very dark color and nothing close to white.
A new netbook model from Lenovo was also spotted on the FCC’s database and it is being concluded by many the rumored ThinkPad and this new model are one and the same. Whatever it is, more rumors peg this device around 5th January in 2010. The name has been apparently been settled as X100e. There was some confusion with suggestions of the device being called X200e.
Nokia’s debut into the netbook segment and into the computing segment in general, is the Booklet 3G. The Booklet 3G is a 10” netbook that became the very first netbook to contain inbuilt aGPS, a 3G modem, accelerometer and various other features that are usually found only in smartphones. It was launched alongside the October 22nd launch of Windows 7, which runs on the device. Nokia collaborated with Intel in order to make this the Booklet.
It is currently available in the US either through a contract with AT&T or through Best Buy at a retail price. Best Buy has the exclusive retails rights to the device and hence all Booklet 3G models that are unlocked and sold without a carrier contract are to be found only at the online store and the physical stores owned by the retail chain. The retail price of the Booklet 3G in the US is $599.99.
That may be considered steep by some people but the advanced features of the device are the main reason why the cost is so much higher than the usual netbooks.
In the meantime, rumors are already circulating about an update to the Booklet 3G that is coming in the year 2010. Details are not clear but it seems like the company that makes the Booklet 3G is working overtime in order to satisfy the demands of the device. Since most of the advanced shipments are already on their way and the device is not in that great a demand, this flurry activity is regarded as abnormal. Hence, it is being speculated that Nokia us is making a second Booklet. Logically, that would make sense because the Booklet will soon be overtaken by other newer products and if Nokia has to continue in the market, they have to update the line.
Speculation throughout the Internet suggest that Asus is going to make an extremely cheap portable that will run Android and will cost less that $200. This sounds like the mythical $100 laptop, which has not been achieved with any reasonable success as of yet.
These speculations broke out after Asus’ CEO was interviewed by a Korean news site. In the interview, he seems to be talking about a new device that the company will be releasing in the year 2010. Jerry Shen (CEO, Asustek) said that his company is in the process of making a smartbook and tey will be launching it in the first quarter of 2010.
Smartbooks are different from netbooks. They are usually less powerful than netbooks and are also smaller. Smartbooks are made generally for the lowest rung of computing needs and are popular as devices that are given to younger students. They are usually made to be durable and cheap so that they can be made, purchased and distributed in bulk.
However, smartbooks do not have a clearly defined line that separates them from the netbooks. With technology evolving so fast, both segments seem to be overlapping at quite a few points. Hence, Asus’ target to make this smartbook needs more details before any estimated can be made about its performance and reception.
But there are already talks about what OS the netbook is going to use. Smartbooks are usually sold with an embedded OS because of the lack of resources. These are usually system-on-a-chip solutions that require very little resources. But since the price point was given at something around $184 (converted from Korean Won), it is unlikely to run Windows. And since the Android OS is already open source and so very sophisticated, that is likely to be a good choice. Other embedded OS’ are not nearly as advanced as the Android. Also, they are not as well maintained and supported by third-party developers.