Rumors of the death of the netbook are much exaggerated; and despite Microsoft’s repeated arm-twisting, GNU/Linux will be available on ASUS’s coolest new netbook. With Meego it will be priced at $199; with the Windows starter edition costing $310…
Netbook sales slow, that’s the headline. But they grow almost 34%. That doesn’t sound too slow to me…Another silly perspective when the author states that netbook sales are”surprisingly unhampered by the foul economy.” Netbooks are very precisely adapted for this foul economy. That is why I wrote back in December of 2007: “This computer is the future, and it has arrived at the right place in the market at exactly the right time. That is being at the low end of the market, at the beginning of a long down turn, and also oozing “coolness”. It’s Tiffany at a Wal-Mart price.” (See post here.)
The honeymoon may be over for netbooks. After an astronomic rise in sales following their introduction around three years ago – and surprisingly unhampered by the foul economy – netbook sales have finally slowed.
According to market research firm IDC, shipments to retailers early this year still grew 33.6 percent over last year. That’s growth most industries would kill for, but it pales in comparison to the 872 percent growth netbooks experienced over the same period from 2009 – the industry’s equivalent of a teenage growth spurt. Although the acceleration has dropped, the volume remains significant: IDC claims manufacturers moved 4.8 million netbooks between January and March this year.
This means something. A uber-cool netbook aimed at the overcompensated. At it runs SuSE Linux. As covered at the New York Times:
By Ashlee Vance
Your pay grade is just that high. It says, “I’m better than this clunky laptop docking station. I’m better than sticking a power cord into my computer. And I’m better than waiting for Windows to check my e-mail.”
The software fires up the moment you open the laptop and connects right to a wireless network without Windows.
(Under the hood, it’s Linux running on top of an ARM chip on a mini-motherboard that provides this quick access feature. You’re basically talking about most of the components needed to run an iPhone being hitched to a large battery. So, the computer can run in instant-on mode for days.)
Some users Dell surveyed spent 70 percent of their time working in the instant-on mode. Microsoft is sure to take note of that figure. Windows has turned into a clunky cup holder.
[Oh, and note MSWindows won’t run on ARM chip architecture–there ain’t no plan b, Linux (R) is plan a…]
This computer is the future, and it has arrived at the right place in the market at exactly the right time. That is being at the low end of the market, at the beginning of a long down turn, and also oozing “coolness”. It’s Tiffany at a Wal-Mart price.
The success of this device will inspire others, and once a company like Dell moves in, I think we can see the adoption of linux in a whole new class of devices starting very quickly. The large PC companies will not sit on the sidelines and let an upstart like ASUS have a new market to themselves. They will push in, rapidly. The price point and the diminutive specs of this unit make it rather unlikely that MSWindows will be the OS of choice for this new platform, unless MS radically changes their pricing structure, which is rather doubtful.
As noted over at Canalys 10 September 2009:
H1 2009 research highlights
The PC industry is undergoing a more dramatic transformation than seen at any time in the last 15 years. The netbook category was invented as recently as 18 months ago by the likes of Asus and Acer and is the only PC segment enjoying growth this year. The impact of netbooks has been profound. It has forced Microsoft to fend off a threat from Linux by reducing its operating system prices and to continue promoting its aging XP brand. Netbooks have dramatically lowered industry price points, attracting new categories of consumer buyers….The market shares of PC vendors are changing rapidly on the back of their willingness to commit to the netbook category and their agility in chasing these new, substantial telco deals.
The one thing that I did not predict correctly is that MS would really change the price of Windows. But in a sense, I am right about that too, because although they temporarily changed the price of Windows, it seems MS have back tracked from that also:
After publicly advertising the idea that Windows PCs are cheaper than Macs in its “Laptop Hunter” ads, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told an audience of financial analysts that the company’s attempts to cut prices of Windows to induce demand in emerging markets had failed over the previous year, and that the solution to the company’s woes will be to increase the price of computers.
“The theory was wrong,” Ballmer said, explaining that there wasn’t enough new demand to make up for the drop in profits. “You’ll see us address the theory. We’re going to readjust those prices north [using Windows 7].”
MS is in a lose-lose situation: lower the price of Windows, and they will hurt their profits dramatically, especially since it turns out that netbooks are the only PC sector that is growing–all the others are actually shrinking. Raise the price, and Linux will be the choice on netbooks.
Checking up on how Ballmer’s way out-of-step-with-reality plan to raise the price of netbooks is going, I looked at Dell’s website, to see what a Dell Mini 9 would cost with MSWindows vs how much it would cost with Ubuntu. This used to be very difficult to do, because Microsoft’s agreements with vendors specifically forbade that kind of transparent pricing.
But Dell surprised me beyond any expectations.
Apparently Microsoft’s strategy to return to their former profitability after their last horrendous results will be–are you ready for this– to increase the price of computers. No, I really am not making this up!
But I shouldn’t really have been surprised by this turn of events, here’s what I said back on March 29 in my post about the Windows adverts:
“In anycase, Microsoft has been too clever by half, as the saying goes. This is same race to the bottom that ends with a $199 netbook running either linux, or a version of windows that is priced so low there’s not much profit there.” *
Steve Ballmer could have just read my blog, and not paid all of his marketing whiz kids anything.
Of course there needs to be the obligatory post about Amazon deleting the stuff from the kindle that they didn’t like. The bigger questions, that Amazon has not answered, are:
Do you want to buy something that can be monitored & controlled by some central entity?
Why did Amazon build that feature into the Kindle in the first place?
Do you trust them when they say we won’t do it again?
Who else can use the features in the Kindle to monitor what you are reading?
Just don’t buy a Kindle. My strong recommendation: Buy a netbook that has GNU/linux (for less than the $299 the Kindle sells for), and download what you want. When you tire of reading you can play some chess* or travel through the solar system (and this is all using free software…)
Oh, and by the way 1984 is in the public domain in Australia and Russia, so take a look at these sites:
Here are some free fonts to use when reading your downloaded books:
And here are some free software packages with which to read your .pdf’s:
And here are 100 of the top book downloads from Project Gutenberg: