Reality Check: Netbook Sales Growth Slowing Drastically

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The above chart speaks for itself.

The article makes a case that the iPad contributed to this, but it’s simply too soon to conclude anything like that.

I believe netbook growth keeps slowing as people find out what they really are: cheap cheap laptops. I don’t think the majority of people knew what they were getting. They expect these things to do what a desktop or laptop does, and are finding out it’s too slow and ill-equipped for the job. As it turns out, you really do get what you pay for.

A netbook may still be fine for a tech or gadget geek who’s prepared to deal with its limits, but not for the consumer who thinks they’re getting a good ol’ laptop when they’re not. I think the word is getting out, and the netbooks’ wild ride is over.

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HP Slate is ‘meh’

[Conecti.ca’s] conclusion? “The official verdict is meh.” Yeah, ouch. Apparently the Slate’s biggest strength is also its greatest weakness — it’s essentially a touchscreen netbook, and that means that while it can run everything including Flash, it can be “slow and annoying.

Can this possibly be a surprise to anyone not in denial? These doofus Windows tablet devices are netbooks with the keyboard snapped off. Using a desktop OS not only too bloated to run well on their relatively slow processors, but unable to fully realize the experience of a touch UI.

The old ones sucked. The new ones suck. Future ones are gonna suck.

Bill Gates said you can’t just build a new OS for tablets, but he was wrong. It was wrong about tablets eight years ago, and it’s still wrong today. It’s actually sad to see a company like HP follow a path that a decade of devices has proved time and again is… wrong.

iPad alternatives? Only if you stretch the meaning of “alternative”.

So, before you get up on Saturday morning and run off to purchase that iPad, you may want to peruse the best current (as well as coming) alternatives we’ve rounded up after the break.

Um, none of these are “alternatives” to an iPad. They’re laptops, netbooks, or vaporware. And the JooJoo can’t be considered an alternative, it’s web-only.

The best these can be considered “alternatives” to is spending $500 in the first place. That’s true, but so is buying three tickets to a Cirque De Soleil show.

Right now the iPad is one-of-a-kind, no matter how many pundits blather about “tablets” having been around for 10 years. Those are laptops running a desktop OS with the keyboard snapped off. You don’t build the new paradigm with the old paradigm’s thinking.

There’s no other device with a ground-up touch OS, thousands of apps, accessories, and ecosystem, from a company with off-the-charts support and customer satisfaction scores.

This doesn’t mean you have to like the iPad, or that there aren’t other ways to spend your cash, or that there’ll never be alternatives. But there aren’t any now. You’ll have to wait a while for the cheap fakes.

Netbook Sales Growth Sagging: What Took So Long?

The sales growth of netbooks, priced from $200 to $500 and resembling shrunk-down laptops, slowed markedly in the first quarter, according to market researcher IDC.

This should come as a shock to no one, but of course it will. The netbook is a cheap cheap laptop, OK? That’s all it’s ever been. Nothing more, nothing less. Laptops went from well over $1K, to cheap laptops in the $600 range, and netbooks brought them down to $300.

Those lower divisions brought cheaper components, lower quality, weak processors, etc. They had to. For some that might be good enough, but it doesn’t change the fact that netbooks are a significant compromise to the laptop they emulate. For many, the netbook brought disappointment when they found out there really is no such thing as a $300 laptop.

As for manufacturers, they found out that, while they could brag about sales in terms of number of units, there’s little profit. No wonder the big names are scaling back.

Walt Mossberg Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close

After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop.

I already know two people in my household for which the iPad is easily a laptop replacement. In fact, I’m betting they’ll get more things done because the computer’s power is more accessible than ever.

In A Shocker, Laptop Magazine Says A Cheap Laptop Is Better Than The iPad.

The iPad is a mobile Internet device that focuses on multimedia and dabbles in productivity. It’s a supersized iPod touch with enhanced capabilities

Laptop magazine doesn’t quite understand the iPad. A big iPod touch? Gee, I haven’t heard that before. Dabbles in productivity? Oh I forgot, “productivity” is from the Latin, meaning Microsoft Office.

It’s rather pathetic how the authors had to grovel at the feet of the generic netbook device, netbook manufacturers, and Microsoft in order to have “netbooks” beat a device they’ve never used in only five of 10 categories (the iPad won three; two were draws).

I have to wonder if, given how the deck was stacked against it, three wins and a couple draws is actually an iPad victory at this stage of the game. I mean, it cleared five categories without even showing up. Impressive performance, but don’t try telling Laptop Magazine that.

You CanNOT Get a MacBook-Equivalent PC Laptop For A Lot Less Money.

I sent a series of tweets recently inspired by two things:

  1. My search for a MacBook-like PC to run Windows 7.
  2. My realization that no such PC exists for a lot less money than a MacBook, though everyone (including many who should know better) seems to repeat this nonsense.

Below are the the tweets:

  • Dear WSJ and tech pundits: You can’t get a MacBook-equivalent PC for a lot less money; you only get a lesser one.
  • I’m sick of these low-voltage 1.3 GHz no-power laptops being treated as MacBook equivalents. It’s BS.
  • I’m sick of PC laptop starting prices of ~$650 when they use old or weak processors, old WiFi, have no Bluetooth, etc.
  • Closest is an HP Dv3t configured similar 2 MacBook @ $900 with lots of HP giveaways. Nice, but not a lot less $$.
  • The HP has more drive space and RAM. The MacBook has better battery, trackpad, smaller, lighter, unibody.
  • My point is when you’re within $100 on two laptops, take your pick, but the cheaper one is hardly a no-brainer.
  • Oh, and Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo models comparable to MacBook are priced higher.
  • Summary: Go thru PC makers’ lengthy BTO process; see what you really get b4 claiming a MacBook for a lot less.

The summary nails it. As you go through all the BTO screens for so many models, you find where each promising PC either falls off the list (e.g., no Core 2 Duo processors, no LED screen), or the price keeps adding up as you configure it like a MacBook.

Think about this: What would a MacBook cost if Apple used an older Intel processor with just 2MB cache (or a low-voltage Centrino or Atom processor), slower DDR2 800MHz memory, Intel graphics, WiFi 802.11 b/g (not “n”), no Bluetooth, a weak battery, a tray CD drive, etc.? That’s exactly what PC makers do to create the low-end machines they (and a willing press) love to tout so much. And don’t even get me started on the big, heavy, lumbering beasts touted for having 15″ screens even though they have the resolution of a 13″.

Regarding the HP mentioned above, CNET configured one that was the same price as a MacBook. Theirs had a slower CPU, but like mine had more hard drive and RAM. They didn’t even list the MacBook’s great 7-hour battery, incredible glass trackpad, or unibody construction as advantages. Yet for the same amount of money HP didn’t include any of those things. In other words, CNET undersold the MacBook even as they acknowledged getting a PC close to it requires spending similar money!

I’m not blasting the PC makers. It’s a cutthroat industry for them; they need to make dirt cheap machines because they have to advertise dirt cheap prices. But one thing is crystal clear: if you don’t use yesterday’s technology, or drop features, or skimp on the battery, etc., it costs money. There is no MacBook-like PC for $700.

I wouldn’t care as much about this if a buyer knew what he was getting. But given the current tech reporting a lot of buyers think they’re getting a “MacBook” for much less money, and that’s pure, unadulterated crap. I’m disappointed the tech pundits haven’t seen the same trends I have and called it what it is.

Meanwhile, what I’ve learned from this exercise is simple: if your budget won’t allow a ~$1K machine, skip the cheap laptop crap and go straight to a netbook. Yes, they also use weak processors, low-cost components, etc., but at least they’re priced like it. Further, they’re smaller and lighter than a laptop, so they have a tangible advantage cheap laptops don’t.

Posted via email from The Small Wave.

Is There More Behind Dell’s Discontinuation of 12-inch Netbooks?

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So Dell is retiring the Mini 12 netbook. According to them it’s because 10-inch netbooks are the “sweet spot” for consumers. I find this odd because Dell has built its entire existence on providing so many choices it’s sometimes difficult to get out of the configuration maze once you get in.

Dell has 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 inch laptops. They have laptops geared for businesses, and for consumers. They have the Alienware models. Heck, they’ve even got an aphrodisiac laptop! In short, they’ve got choices out the wazoo. Surely somewhere in that mess of configuration options are other “sweet spots”, yet with netbooks they’re stopping at 10 inches.

TechCrunch isn’t convinced by Dell’s reasoning, and makes a case that Intel has a lot to do with it:

Intel doesn’t like 12-inch netbooks because they are deep into dual core territory, where Intel has much healthier profit margins… Intel has put pressure on OEMs to build netbooks that have 10 inch or smaller screens.

I don’t doubt this — and I’m not the only one — but I believe Microsoft may have something to do with it as well. Windows 7 is almost here, and the “netbook” version (Starter Edition), is not available for netbooks with screens over 10 inches. In an article I wrote for GigaOM Pro (subscription required), I said that “[s]ome have called the strategy price-fixing. While that may be debated, at the very least it’s “hardware fixing.””

Without Starter, a 12 inch netbook requires at least Home Premium, and the associated price hike that takes it out of typical netbook territory. This is doubly true if Intel charges by screen size as TechCrunch states. These two corporations have made it all but impossible to build a 12-inch netbook for appreciably less than, say, a 13 inch cheap laptop.

If a 13-inch laptop is only a little more then why wouldn’t you prefer it? Because it’s not a netbook. It’s bigger, bulkier, much heavier, runs hotter and has much less battery life. If you just wanted a netbook a bit bigger than 10-inches, with a keyboard less cramped, a 12-inch could be perfect. Perhaps too perfect in Intel’s and Microsoft’s eyes.