December 28, 2009

Netbook Popularity Will Drop Off With Technology Advances

Technology analysts say rising prices and better alternatives may put an end to the wildly popular netbook, BBC News reported.

Some industry watchers are convinced that the 2009 success for netbooks is already waning.

Stuart Miles, founder and editor of the technology blog 'Pocket Lint,' told BBC that he believes the days of the netbook are over.  He says that as prices edge upwards, net-using habits change and other gadgets take on their functions, netbooks will become far less popular.

"Technology has advanced so much that it's out-maneuvered itself," he said. "You wouldn't go for something so basic anymore."

The netbook trend started in 2007 when Asus launched the Eee PC 700 and 701. The 700 sported a 2GB solid state hard drive, 512MB of Ram, a 900 Hz Intel Celeron processor and a seven-inch screen.

The tiny laptop pc was cheap, cheerful and a boon for those wanting to check e-mail and go online while out and about, but Miles said the success of the small, portable notebook has been its undoing because it has spawned so many imitators.

However, the ever-changing habits of web users are too complex for those basic machines and Miles says it is the Internet's fault for making us much more multimedia savvy.

Uploading and editing still or moving pictures and handling audio all require far more power than the basic netbook offers, he said.

He believes this is likely the explanation for why many laptop makers are now turning out very thin and light machines that have power but not the shoulder-wrenching bulk.

Netbooks are in for a shake-up as consumers were chafing against the restrictions that using a netbook imposed on them, according to Ian Drew, spokesman for chip designer Arm.

Drew told BBC he believes the industry failed the consumer because it imposed constraints on them and changing web habits and greater use of social media will mean consumers will be looking for gadgets that are tuned to specific purposes.

Arm hopes that many more netbook makers will be using one of its designs as a core processor and turn to Linux as the operating system. Machines sporting Arm chips are also likely to be thinner as they will not need the heat sinks demanded by processors used in desktops.

New deals that Arm has signed with Adobe will help ensure that future devices will be able to use the software maker's familiar video, audio and image editing tools, Drew said.

He also suggests it will be interesting to see what happens when Google's Chrome OS is launched, as many of the devices running it will be Arm-based as Chrome is broadly based on one of the Linux distributions. There are also unconfirmed rumors that either Windows 8 or 9 will run on Arm chips.

Devices tailored to particular types of users may also be coming down the line.

Also, the approaching wave of tablet computers could also take up the mantle from the netbook, according to Miles.

Apple is rumored to be working on one, while Dell and Microsoft have shown off their own ideas of what one will look like.

He believes they are likely to succeed now more than ever because of the greater experience people had with using such devices.

"It'll be helped by Apple which has educated people how to use multi-touch through the iPhone and iPod touch," he said.

Christopher David, head of developers at SonyEricsson, said netbooks are also likely to come under pressure from smartphones as they get even smarter.

He believes phone makers have to position themselves to be more open and able to support the web habits of users no matter what they were or what they wanted to do.

Handset makers must work with those open web standards to ensure that the software on the phones they make is flexible enough to cope.

David believes the importance of the phone as a vessel for data about its owner will not change.

"We're going to see phones coming along where the form factor will be less and less relevant in terms of what we carry about with us," he said.

He believes that future devices will grab the best resources nearby whether that is a flat screen, projector or thin film display.

Furthermore, the ID credentials stored on what was our phone will handle all the logins and give access to all the sites and services we use.

All of this ultimately means that the netbook, and its limitations, will be truly left behind.