May 30, 2008

Dell Announces its Low-Cost Netbook

In the midst of the growing trend by computer makers to develop smaller, low-price machines, Dell has announced that it too will begin offering its own trimmed-down netbooks.

Neither pricing or specifications have been openly discussed, but Michael Dell "positioned it as the perfect device for the next billion internet users," according the official Dell blog.

Dell joins the growing list of firms like Acer and Hewlett-Packard who have announced intentions to market their own low-budget notebooks.

The market was spurred by the advent of the One Laptop Per Child program, as well as the success of the Asus Eee PC and the availability of chips, made by companies like Intel and Via, designed for low-cost, low power consumption devices.

An estimated 3.6 million netbooks are expected to sell this year for under $500 each.

Asus is expected to sell almost two million of its Eee PCs, which cost between $299 and $549 during the first half of this year.

Chipmakers are joining the movement as well. Intel is pushing a line of even smaller machines, called Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) and Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs), which boast rich Internet experiences in a pocket-sized package. The chipmaker is expected to showcase its manufacturer partners that will become the first to use its Atom chip.

Intel chief executive Paul Otellini said the market was growing fast.

"I've not seen energy like this from our customers in a long, long time," Mr Otellini said.

"Everyone views this as being sort of hyper expansive to the existing market."

He added that lower-priced, low power processors would not pose a competitive threat to its high-end products.

"If a higher-priced notebook isn't substantially better and doesn't offer more utility, shame on us," he said.

"If there's cannibalization, I'd rather be the cannibal than someone else."

Mr Otellini said he expected MIDs to be powered by Linux rather than Microsoft's operating systems.

"Vista has a larger memory footprint, a larger graphics requirement and a higher price point. This is all about low-cost computing," Mr Otellini said.

The growing market trend toward slimmed-down PCs has prompted Microsoft to extend support of its XP OS on sub-notebooks, in an effort to thwart the growing use of Linux on such machines.

The company has also reduced the price of a license for XP running on netbook machines to just $32.

And in an effort to not be outdone, Via has announced a new hardware design for low-cost laptop computers, called OpenBook, making it available under an open source license. The company hopes manufacturers will use the design, which incorporates Via's chipset, to build netbooks.

Last week the One Laptop Per Child program also unveiled a reference design for a future netbook, called the XO2.