Netbooks – Race to the Bottom Not Such a Bad Thing

With the netbook craze in full swing, there is some fear that the new cheap portables will inspire a “race to the bottom” for laptop makers. In other words, manufacturers will get squeezed as consumers expect cheaper and cheaper computers available in retail or subsidized with mobile broadband contracts. So is this a bad thing? Certainly not for consumers, but even for computer companies there’s one big upside to declining prices. Namely, computers suddenly have the potential to hit replacement cycles that are much closer to cell phones than PCs of old.

I adore my new Asus Eee. Fast, shiny, and portable, I consider it a dream machine. However, reading today’s GigaOM column in The New York Times about tablet netbooks with built in cellular connectivity, I found myself thinking about a possible upgrade. I immediately checked myself, then thought twice. I bought my Eee for work, and it cost less than a third of what my old Dell did. If something cool comes out this year, there’s no reason I can’t eBay the Eee and buy again. That would drop my computer replacement cycle from two to three years down to one. Not such a bad thing at all.

13 thoughts on “Netbooks – Race to the Bottom Not Such a Bad Thing”

  1. I would add the “race to the bottom” will be accelerated by the outrageous costs of licensing operating systems (*cough*windows*cough*). This economy is forcing OEMs to take a fresh look at their costs and I imagine OSes are right up their.

    We all know a bunch of net books run Ubuntu, but what about Android? Ubuntu for MIDs is just barley in beta, but Android is ready to rock now ( and has zero licensing or royalty costs )

    Here’s an Asus EEEPC running Android:

    …if the “race to the bottom” results in elegant, 4G connected, Android powered tablets for under $200 – I say sign me up!

  2. I don’t own a laptop. I don’t travel for work so I could never justify the cost as I would just be using it while sitting in the baracalounger. But I have been eying the Eee900. It’s small enough to place on the table next to the chair and I would only be using it for surfing the web. To fill that “need” right now I use my iPod Touch but it’s cumbersome. I think the Eee would be great and reading that article you linked, perhaps the price might be coming down as new models/technologies are approaching.

  3. TiVoSteve, looks like Mari’s pointing back to her Christmas schwag post where she mentioned picking up the Eee PC. This is the model she mentioned having.

    Todd, Android is stripped down Linux distro. Why not use something more full featured on this modern, powerful hardware?

    Carl, there’s going to be and has been many layoffs. Not sure how much impact low-cost netbooks specifically have on this trend.

    As for me, I replaced my 10″ MSI Wind and 15″ MacBook Pro with a new 13″ Macbook. No compromises and plenty portable. Though of course, I had to overpay for an Apple laptop.

  4. I bought a Eee PC 1000H. It is about as small as my hands will let me go, and it was priced right. It does not have the new nifty Atom processor in it, but I’m not going to be doing a whole bunch of processing on it anyway.

  5. “Why not use something more full featured on this modern, powerful hardware?”

    Battery life, battery life, battery life!

    Android is so unbelievably efficient, makes so few calls to the CPU and when it does, it pushes so few bits of of machine code, you could expect massive gains in battery life.

    I haven’t got an answer from the folks at Venture Beat yet, but I predict a 10x battery savings by using Android on that Asus EEEPC.

  6. we bought 2 eee 900 as loaner laptops for the two departments i work for at tufts university. we chose eee’s because their price makes them “disposable’ if they get abused and/or stolen (which is a common occurance for loaner laptops)

    i will admit that i have big hands so the eee is a bit too small for me. my macbook has served me very well and i plan to get an aluminum macbook within the next year.

  7. One problem for me is that you can’t exactly go to a store and try out several netbooks at once, I’d hate to buy something just to try it out for a little while, then sell it for something else.

  8. Big John, You may be able too… My Best Buy sells both the MSI Wind and a few Eee variations. My Micro Center has those and more, such as the Aspire One.

  9. We just bought a $350 MSI Wind two weeks ago and took it with us on vacation. Much easier than toting around our heavy widescreen laptop that costs 5 times as much.

    After reading the reviews, was intending to use the Wind for e-mail/web browsing only, but was able to watch .mp4 videos from our Xacti digital video cam and even caught a few shows on Hulu and Netflix Instant. Not bad for something that costs less than Microsoft Office!

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