Friday, February 20, 2009

Netbooks and tipping points

Anyone using a netbook? About 6 years ago I had a tiny Sony Vaio with a 9 inch screen that I loved. Ultimately I couldn't stand XP anymore and switched to a Mac once OS X took off, but I always thought the form factor was great. At the time, only Japanese consumers would tolerate such a small screen and keyboard.

Now netbooks, which look just like my old Sony, are the hottest thing, accounting for about 10 percent of unit laptop sales. They can sell for under $300 and often run Linux distros like Ubuntu.

What I haven't seen discussed is that the rise of the netbook represents a new phenomenon -- a successful product category pioneered by the anonymous Taiwanese hardware companies that do the contract design and manufacturing for virtually all laptops these days (including for Apple). Until now, it's been US and Japanese companies doing the branding and marketing and capturing the largest chunk of profits. But netbooks were conceived and pushed by companies like Asustek and MSI that are virtually unknown except to computer geeks. Initial interest from big US companies like Dell and HP was limited, and the category took off in Asia and Europe before catching on here.

This may be a tipping point for the technology value chain, in which the uncontested hold the Taiwanese have on laptop and motherboard technology starts to be manifested in product category and brand innovation.


Anonymous said...

For shame, Steve! A new phenomena?

(Feel free to delete this after you fix it. No one needs to know.)

Steve Hsu said...

D'oh! Thanks -- fixed :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to optimize: (Capacity * Price) % Size.

I'm using a 13.3" notebook

Anonymous said...

Netbooks don't do it for me.



+ VNC or equiv connection

+ some kind of folding keyboard (this is the problem I can't see a satisfactory solution to).

Then I have all the computing I need for travel, in my pocket!

CW said...

See Clive Thompson's piece in Wired. He starts out by arguing that the OLPC project seeded the phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

Since you asked this, I got an Asus EEE PC 1000HE. Love it.

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