Intel slams netbooks

Intel's Atom chip is at the heart of the netbook revolution, but the company sought to dampen interest in the platform at a recent conference. Stu Pann, vice president of sales and marketing at Intel, said at the Raymond James IT Supple Chain Conference that they were intended for "emerging markets and younger kids" and indicated that Intel was surprised at their success in the west.
"We view the Netbook as mostly incremental to our total available market ... If you've ever used a Netbook and used a 10-inch screen size--it's fine for an hour. It's not something you're going to use day in and day out."
Netbooks are low-profit items that threaten a high-profit ecosystem. Intel doesn't want to swap its Core 2 dollars for Atom pennies. It always imagined these low-power chips as a sideline in devices that supplement, rather than replace, "real" laptops. In underestimating netbooks' general appeal, however, Intel's seen its Atom become a "good enough" chip for uses it never intended. A year ago, a netbook would have seemed a foolish choice for a main machine – but times have changed. You can even just slap a netbook's guts in an everyday-looking laptop, keep the old price tag, and call it a day. Intel rethinks Netbooks: ‘Fine for an hour’ but.. [CNET]

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23 Responses to Intel slams netbooks

  1. Anonymous says:

    He obviously does not get why people buy these laptops. They are not buying them for primary use, they are a secondary use laptop. It is what you buy when you are on the bus, or train or whatever and need something to use that does not weigh huge amounts. In that case, you want light with a long battery life. The keyboard needs to be usable enough. It needs to have enough cpu and video to play movies and music and do a bit of word processing and e-mail. It is not meant to replace your old laptop, only to supplement it.

    Can they improve it? Yes. Improve the graphics hardware. Increase the number of codecs that get hardware support. (At least add divx, ogg vorbis and quicktime.) Merge the netbook video drivers into the mainline Intel drivers.

    Some people at Intel do not seem to get how important the Atom processor is. It only eats 7-14 watts. It does not need a heat sink in normal operation. (When was the last time you heard of that with an Intel processor?) I am waiting for these to be used more heavily in blade servers, where heat is a real issue.

    I could go into more things that need to be done with these. I don’t think they have figured out just how useful that processor is going to be. If they can get the bridge chip power usage down, it will be even better.

  2. arkizzle says:

    Kieran: *sigh* :D

  3. Halloween Jack says:

    So the same industry that tried to foist “net appliances” like the Audrey on us in the nineties are now whinging because someone finally got the performance/size/price sweet spot right? Mmm-hmm.

  4. Yaruki Zero says:

    You know, I wouldn’t ever want something so underpowered for my main computer, but for a thing to carry with me and use to write stories, check my e-mail, and so on, I swear by my Eee PC. Everything my desktop can do that my Eee PC can’t is something that I don’t really need while I’m out and about anyway.

  5. arkizzle says:

    I was thinking about this, and I reckon Intel are scared. Not of competition, as such, but of people realizing that the computers they are forced to buy (forced, in that with redundance comes lack of options) have wa-ay more horsepower most people will ever need – and as each year goes by the difference gets more pronounced.

    I’m a horsepower guy myself, I use every drop I can afford, but I know most people just aren’t. Most folks just want to browse the internet, deal with the photos from their digital camera, and reload their ipod. All possible with a fraction of the power and ram of today’s baseline models.

    There is definitely a GHz Gap (if you will) between the hardware we are encouraged to buy and the requirements of the use, to which it will eventually be put. Most desktop computers you can buy today – whether pro or consumer – are within a range of similarity, beyond which is the supercomputer at the one extreme, and something ‘dumb’ like a fax machine at the other. And there’s the thing. People really want ‘appliance’ computers, not workstations. They don’t upgrade their kettle or toaster or TV every 3 years, why would they update their internet-viewer?

    I genuinely think Intel are realizing that a two tier hardware model could become apparent, beyond the more usual normal-computer vs overclocked-super-graphics-beast or real-computer vs mobile-device. Now it could be more like media-center (used by everyone) vs actual computers (only used by pros and hobbyists).

    I’m not sure how that effects Intels bottom line (do they care if they can just keep stamping out old chips, rather than innovate?), but perhaps it would be harder to keep up the innovation if everyday customers weren’t there to subsidise the constant speed increases needed by power-hungry industries who actually benefit from faster cpu’s (film / animation / games / architecture / design / music).

    In other words: If there was a significant divide between the computers pros used (industry) compared to the ones everyday people used (the masses), would innovation be as affordable to both Intel and the companies requiring that innovation.

    Anyway, just some thoughts I had. My models are probably way off IANAnEconomist..

  6. arkizzle says:

    * for the pedants, I only put an apostrophe in the plural of cpu, because otherwise it read as cpus, which scans kind of like c-pus, which sounded icky.

  7. arkizzle says:

    Bendict, is that you again Shantanu?


  8. zuzu says:

    Thanks Asus for some much-needed disruptive innovation, and for implementing Alan Kay’s dream of a Dynabook — that the central planning behind the OLPC can barely get out the door — and in the process legitimizing your brand name and making a tidy profit. Win all around.

    Now if only vital markets such as education and healthcare had people acting more like Asus and less like the OLPC non-profit.

  9. dimmer says:

    Well, I can see why Intel would want to place a little damper on the NetBook trend: profit, of course, being one; but also somewhere an IT manager is figuring out that he/she can replace real laptops with NetBooks (except for the IT staff of course) and save on their budgets at the expense of a lot of frustrated users who do need to do more than browse the web and watch YouTube. By setting an expectation at a more rational level makes sense.

  10. nixiebunny says:

    A 10 inch screen is bigger than that of the original Macintosh. So now it’s too small?

  11. pork musket says:

    @2 That’s hardly the point. The original Mac wasn’t marketed as portable, and you the keyboard wasn’t forced into the same form factor as the screen. You’re comparing really old Apples with oranges.

  12. se7a7n7 says:

    These Eee nettop books are going to be down to $199 by this time next year.

    At the same time, the price of laptops should be dropping by the same percentage.

    The Intel guy sounds whiny, it’s the way the market works dude.

  13. monopole says:

    Reading this on an original EEE on vacation travel. Netbooks are perfect for travel, I’m doing great w/ browsing, e-mail, watching movies transcoded by my machine at home etc.

    I could have brought my thinkpad T42 but why bother? The weight alone would have made me very miserable.

    The true advantage of the netbook is that it is ubiquitous and omnipresent. It’s light and small enough to fit in my bag and go everywhere. This radically changes the way you use it.

  14. Kieran O'Neill says:

    And cheap. It’s something you can take backpacking through some really poor parts of the world; Firstly, it doesn’t attract too much attention (small, easily concealable), and secondly it’s only marginally more expensive than the average medium-range cell phone or portable music player.

    #14: But Arkizzle, you used “effects” when I’m fairly sure you meant to use “affects”. :P

    (Good post, though – I think that’s likely to be the way it plays out. Interesting times ahead…)

  15. zuzu says:

    The Intel guy sounds whiny, it’s the way the market works dude.

    I hear there’s a line forming outside the Treasury Department for companies whining about how the market works.

    Of course, bailouts and cronyism are why inflated prices are overprotected in the aforementioned education and healthcare markets. I can just imagine an executive at GE complaining, in the same vein as this Intel guy, about Honda making an MRI or full-body CT scanner priced an order of magnitude less than the GE products. (Drug companies have already secured government protection from parallel trade — which if legal would severely lower pharmaceutical costs.)

    After all, according to inflationist economic policy, prices should only ever go up. (c.f. housing asset bubble) :p

  16. Rajio says:

    The MSI Wind is fine. I have been using one as my daily machine since launch. IF i want/need more space, I can plug it in to another monitor (rare), the price ($400) and battery life (6 hours) are great. Add a bluetooth mouse and you have a winner. Ok you can’t use 10″ screen like you use a 20″ screen but it’s plenty big enough if you know how to use it (dont use programs with bloated interfaces) … it even runs vista really well. I have zero complaints with mine. the keyboard is plenty big enough too.

    …and its a hell of a lot more useful as a portable machine than my 15″ laptop (which is relatively huge and heavy as an ox in comparison with a fraction of the battery life)

    I can see how people can be suspicious of the monitor size at first glance but use it for a little while and you quickly realize that it’s not too small at all.

  17. musicalwoods says:

    A netbook is the level at which I need a laptop.

    I am the type of user that has a media powerhouse at home and a cheap laptop for light work and travel.

    Currently I have a custom-built home desktop that I am absolutely in love with (minus graphics card problems soon to be remedied) and a CF-28 Toughbook for my knock-around internet and oo.o machine.

    The Toughbook isn’t ideal for travel due to its size, so within the year I’m expecting to upgrade to a nice netbook. I’m trying to hold out until the summer, hoping for a decent ARMv7 netbook to come out by then.

  18. Anonymous says:

    absolute BS .I have a power laptop with an x-9100 cpu and ATI fire gl 5600 and i only use it for demanding tasks , 75% of the time I use my hp 2133 1.6 ghz 2 gb mem and 160 7200 rpm HD . It is more than fast enough fot e-mail , surfing and using open office . Intel wants people to THINK they need that fast expensive CPU , but in 88% of cases they are not needed .
    It’s sort of like those guys poking along at 50 mph in the supercar , most would crap a brick if they took their car for a spin at 7/10 of it’s potential .

  19. Dillenger69 says:

    I’d love a netbook with the current screen size if only they would bump the standard resolution to 1280×800. I refuse to buy a computer with a 1024×600 screen.

  20. chromal says:

    i’ll take these netbooks more seriously as “main computers” when they can run fallout3 and left4dead well. c_c Trapped with the technology equivalent of Internet kiosk access would make me want to put a gun to my head. o_o

  21. Rob Beschizza says:

    Chromal, most people just check email and watch YouTube. That’s why netbooks are good enough.

  22. zuzu says:

    Indeed, video games are in a class of their own — so much so that dedicated consoles / portables exist for them (e.g. Playstation, Nintendo, etc.)

    (Not that I don’t appreciate Apple upgrading the graphics hardware in their MacBook line, but I imagine that has more to do with a migration towards true resolution independence / zooming user interface in future versions of Aqua / OSX.)

    However, I’ll second Dillenger69’s remark that screen resolution is an obvious but harsh place to skimp to bring the price down. (Again, even Apple does this in skimping on the quality of the 13″ screens used in the MacBook compared the MacBook Air.)

  23. Patrick Anderson says:

    You’d think he’d be happy to move any kind of product during this economic climate. Tell him to take his sad song to Detroit, and see what kind of response he gets there.

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