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Will Netbooks Get Squeezed Out?

Qualcomm and Freescale today amnounced plans to launch "Smartbooks" - a family of internet connected devices. The name is an obvious attempt to distance themselves from the Netbook category. So what are smartbooks? The primary function is to connect to the internet. The cost Qualcomm claims will be lower than Netbooks. The battery life will be longer. They will run a Linux based OS as opposed to Windows XP or Windows 7.

But is there really a market for all these devices? or are vendors segmenting the market so finely that each segment is a mere sliver? Let us consider the full spectrum of mobile devices today from smartphones to notebooks.

mobile computingAs shown in the chart, the space in the lower left quadrant copmprising of smartphones, smartbooks and netbooks is a key competitive battleground with potentially Netbooks getting squeezed. while both smartphones and netbooks exposed a latent need for lighweight mobile computing devices, how that space consolidates is too early to tell.

One things is clear though - the traditional business computing space is not likely to be cannibalized by these devices for two reasons

1. These devices will likely be used in addition to traditional notebooks. Further these devices (netbooks excepted) will not be running Windows which is a major problem for business adoption

2. The impending release of ULVs or ultra low voltage processors will lead to lighter business PCs running industry standard OSs (Windows)

Fighting for a slice or a sliver?

Whether or not these devices will succeed depends largely on the appetite for consumers and businesses to adopt multiple devices. Given the overlap in functionality buyers will be hard pressed to make choices about which device suits them the best. Currently smartphones and netbooks have the greatest momentum. At techaisle we believe that smartphones will win. The scenario where a smartphone such as an iPhone or an Android based phone get paired with a large screen and a keyboard is an intriguing one and could well destroy the opportunity for other types of devices. Even if that doesn't happen, the market appears poised to fragment as more devices appear. While that may increase the size of the pie, vendors could be left fighting for slivers rather than slices.

Abhijeet Rane

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Small Business - I Want My Netbook!
Tracking the Value Shift in Computing
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