Feeds

How Google became Microsoft: A decade of hits, misses and gaffes

The Noughties weren't always nice

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Didn't see that coming moment of the decade: netbooks

Just when you thought PC form factors were done and innovation as far as US PC makers were concerned was a foreign country, Asus stepped up with its sub-laptop EEE PC in 2007.

The machine was smaller and lighter than the smallest notebook - measuring no more than 8.9 by 6.5 inches and weighing about two pounds, and dumped the idea of disk storage for solid-state drive to get there. It was also cheaper because it didn't license Windows and ran a custom version of Linux.

There had been similar small-form-factor devices called sub-compacts before from Apple and Psion - who used the name "netBook" and who tried in 2009 to prosecute retailers and PC makers demanding payment for their use of the phrase "netbook". But such devices were often over-priced for what they offered and never caught on.

The EEE PC exploded with such force it caught slumbering US PC makers and Microsoft by surprise and added much-needed growth to a slow business. Gartner this year estimated that overall PC shipments for 2009 would grow by 2.8 per cent compared to 2008 to hit 299 million units. The number of netbooks shipped is expected to more than double to hit 35 million.

The ramifications of the netbook have been huge. Hewlett-Packard and Dell have been dragged into building machines while Microsoft has had to keep Windows XP alive, in part, as Windows Vista was too fat and slow to run on a netbook. Netbooks accounted for between 10 and 11 per cent of Microsoft's client revenue each quarter this year.

But with their low average selling prices, netbooks are hurting OEMs and Microsoft. Most units sell for around $200, meaning there's not much profit to be had. US PC makers would be happier if people bought more expensive laptops, and have been coy about their netbook plans. Microsoft would also prefer that its OEM and retail customers buy more expensive SKUs of Windows, rather than Windows XP.

Netbooks have given a boost to Linux in a market where it has always been challenged: the PC. Researcher ABI reported that Linux is on 32 per cent of those 35 million netbooks that will be shipped in 2009.

The normally visionary Apple, meanwhile, has been put both on the defensive and the wrong side of history by netbooks. The company killed its popular netbook-sized 12-inch PowerBook class of machine in May 2006 - before that ground-breaking Asus device - and pushed instead 13-, 15- and 17-inch laptops. This year Apple snootily dismissed netbooks as "junky and unusable".

Those who have embraced netbooks, particularly Acer, have done remarkably well. Such was the netbook's boost to Acer's business that the Taiwanese PC maker in 2009 beat Dell to become the world's second largest PC maker.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.