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.