Intel: netbooks are OK for an hour or so, that’s all


Cimg0928Netbooks have caught the computing industry with their pants down.  What was originally envisioned as a cheap laptop for kids and those not wanting to do very much has in fact evolved into companion notebooks that owners are using for all sorts of computing tasks.  This has the companies behind the technology worried no doubt as they see the sub-$400 notebooks beginning to eat directly into their bottom lines.

One company who has embraced the netbook is Intel, no doubt because their Atom processor has become the de facto standard engine powering virtually all netbooks.  Intel even jumped onto the netbook bandwagon by buying the domain and launching a web site devoted to the littlest notebooks.

That makes a statement made by Stu Pann, Intel’s VP of sales and marketing, all the more puzzling as it indicates that the chip maker is taking a step back from the whole netbook thing:

"We originally thought Netbooks would be for emerging markets andyounger kids, and there is some of that. It turns out the bulk of theNetbooks sold today are Western Europe, North America, and for peoplewho just want to grab and go with a notebook," Pann said. "We view theNetbook as mostly incremental to our total available market," he added.

"If you’ve ever used a Netbook andused a 10-inch screen size–it’s fine for an hour. It’s not somethingyou’re going to use day in and day out."

Yes, Intel is stepping back publicly from the whole netbook as capable computer meme.  Intel is stating that these netbook things are not good for extended usage.  There are millions of folks who I’ll bet will argue with that viewpoint based on sales numbers.  Perhaps Intel is beginning to feel a lot of pressure from laptop makers who are feeling the netbook eat into traditional notebook sales?

(via CNET)



I have a 22″ widescreen monitor in my house and dual 17″ monitors at work. I wouldn’t be able to code half as much if I didn’t have that much screen real state.

I agree with him, netbooks are nice, I would love one to take on the go and have internet connection wherever, but I wouldn’t work on a screen so small (without taking into consideration the tiny keyboards which I am sure would give me carpal tunnel syndrome on a blink)



Two points:

1. You can surf the web, read emails, play youtube and divx videos, write office documents and view pdfs perfectly fine on a 3 year-old machine. What keeps us chasing the newer and better specs all the time?

2. There are linux distros that I) perform better II) have a smaller disk footprint III) use much less cpu and RAM IV) have better and shinier GUI than either XP or Vista and V)
can run on a netbook no problems. In fact, buying a netbook gave me the opportunity to try Linux for the first time. So much for being stuck on XP.

I think that one of a the testaments of a better OS is that it can run on a less capable machine (maybe with fewer graphics effects and such but nevertheless). So one doesn’t need to be stuck on XP/Vista with a netbook.


“Maybe Steve Jobs was right when he said “We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.””

But they sure know how to build a $2500 computer that is a piece of junk…


Well, a netbook may be useable for more than an hour, but I’d like to offer the opinion that anyone who voluntarily uses one for more than an hour if there is any other alternative with better ergonomics is downright stupid.

Repetitive strain injuries and the “laptop hunch” you see people doing constantly is an ergonomics nightmare already if you would prefer to be able to use computers well into your retirement years. Normal laptops are already awful from an ergonomic point of view – now take that and compound it by having a tiny screen and an even more cramped keyboard and what you have there is a recipe for guaranteed work-related injury disasters down the line.

Personally I even developed issues with my hands while typing on a full-size straight “plank” desktop keyboard, and I see more and more co-workers getting carpal tunnel symptoms from sitting hunched over their laptops, arms close to the body trying to keep their wrists straight and failing.

So yeah… netbooks are fine for an hour, sounds very plausible to me.

Patrick Moorhead

@EngineDale I don’t know what you consider a “suit” but I spend all my free time tinkering with systems and my business life trying to make great technology for consumers and businesses. And, like you, communicate my opinion. I don’t hide under an avatar or veil either, like most. No one at work considers me a suit. You don’t know me so don’t call me a suit. Why don’t you take off the costume and let’s have a productive conversation on emerging trends and technology.


Maybe Steve Jobs was right when he said “We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.”


Many of the issues people raise with netbooks aren’t issues for me. I type fine on the little keyboard and the lack of power is no issue when running a browser and one or two other apps. As far as the screen goes simply putting firefox into Fullscreen mode solves the issue of size.


While I think netbooks are nice new small and cost effective laptops. I do think Intel has a point. These netbooks are exactly the type of computers that will leave us stuck with windows XP or vista for years.


So it looks like Pat Moorhead from AMD and Stu Pann from Intel can agree on one thing – that netbooks need to be more expensive and use faster processors.

Hey guys, why don’t you rope in MS and the OEMs too, they’d love to get in on the “more expensive” bandwagon.

It is not by accident that Intel wants netbooks to grow “just a tiny bit” – just beyond the ULCPC license requirements of Windows XP. After that, its a vicious circle – bigger displays and faster processors will require Vista, Vista will require faster processors and more RAM, et cetera ad nauseum.


enginedale makes a good point, you corporate types need to give up on “spin”, just set your products out and let things take their natural course. relax, grab a cup of coffee and let enlighted types like dale dictate the course of your products.


unfortunately for you Pat your opinion is rather meaningless as it’s tainted by corporate special interests, just as Stu’s is. i’ve been dealing with your types for decades, what the suits fail to understand is the general public is more knowledgeable then ever. so when you wrote that 1st horrible piece awhile back littered with “spin” it only further hurt your credibility as the masses already knew the truth. if AMD had been the leader in this market your “opinion” would have been completely different.

suits have always been the last to catch on & the 1st to fail, & always will be. thats why their jobs have a higher turnover rate than fastfood employee’s.

Ron C

@ John in Norway

Yea, that was my first thought too. Only I’m looking at it from the point of view of the PocketPC – The uptime meter on my Toshiba e800 was ticking over 5500 hours just before she finally died on me.

People will buy the best tool available; and that is a function of different form factors at different price points. You’ll find the mix that works for you. Producers should keep that in mind and not try to foist their own biases and suppositions on the market. Let the consumers decide what they want; they’ll sell more that way.

William C Bonner

I’ve still never bought a tablet. When I can buy a decent tablet computer with essentially the same specs as a netbook (including sub $400 price) I’ll probably snap one up for my portable use. A slate would be fine for much of the reading and research that I do.


“Mind you, I’m not trying to diminish the market or their use, and to each their own, but I’m very disturbed by this love-affair with netbooks and the claims that they can be the end-all-be-all for everyone.”

Thank you! Some common sense.

One thing that is rarely, if ever, discussed is how support costs factor into the equation for manufacturers. I haven’t seen any evidence that netbooks require any less support for issues (whether hardware or software) that will develop over the life of the device compared to full-blow laptops.

Considering that support will be just as expensive for a netbook as it will be for a laptop, I predict it will be another year before manufacturers stop making them, or they will be out of business. Either that, or support will be super expensive or non-existent.

I can already predict the gnashing-of-teeth that will result a year from now from netbook proponents over support issues. It’s like there is this wide-eyed religious belief that netbooks are perfect and will never fail….

And whatever the issu


Oh come on… all this netbook support from a bunch of us who constantly talk about how we’re taking Device X to Event 1 because it suits a function and yet we’re taking Device Y to Event 2 because we need another feature.

I don’t think the guy is too far off the mark. There are very few ultra-portable devices that I can stand to use for extended periods of time or would even consider using for extended times, but then I do more than just surf too, and I expect high-resolution and performance, so I am happy to pay the premiums for a high-end laptop or desktop.

Mind you, I’m not trying to diminish the market or their use, and to each their own, but I’m very disturbed by this love-affair with netbooks and the claims that they can be the end-all-be-all for everyone.


If I wanted a small device to catch up on my email and browse the web for a short duration, I’d take out my smartphone from my pocket. My netbook is far more useful than “just” a web browsing machine, and others seem to think the same way, given that most netbooks seem to be coming installed with Windows XP now.


Netbook or not, the rule of game has changed. It’s not about specs or design. It’s all about money. Mass market already have seen what $400 laptops can do, and how much they actually need to pay to meet their needs. Good luck on selling $1000+ laptops to them.


If netbooks were only good for an hour, nobody would be clamoring for extended batteries in these devices.

I use my HP 2133 Mini note for mobile use and sometimes spend an entire day out of the office with it. It’s small size lets me carry it without a case, I can use it without having to sit at a table, and it does a lot more for me than just web surfing and email (stuff that I’ve done on my pocket PC for years anyway).

A great netbook will in fact replace a notebook, much the same way a great notebook can replace your desktop. Not everybody does everything I do with my 2133, but I think once you see everything that is possible with a tricked-out netbook, the opinions will quickly change.


There is definitely a large demographic for which the netbook IS perfect (students, casual users, …). There is also a demographic for which the netbook IS NOT perfect (gamers, office workers, graphic designers, …). The issue is really what the percentages are.

In the case where the netbook is not good enough for all that needs to be done, you may find that a netbook will be purchased to “supplement” their main computer (for travel reasons, etc.). That means 2 computers/person.

I think Intel will still do well through this, because of the shear volume of sales…particularly since netbooks are now in a price range for people that could not afford anything before. Intel’s biggest threat may come from ARM CPUs, if/when ARM manages to scale up to the Atom’s capabilities.


maybe he should ask a womans viewpoint? because my wife said 10″ was plenty.


A Sony UX has been my only computer for the last two and a half years. As soon as these are purchased by those who are computer-less, they will be their main machines for at least 2 years. Perhaps in a few years it will be back to full laptop + smartphone for mobile work.

John in Norway

So my OQO with a 5 inch screen is only good for half an hour? Or have I fumbled with the maths? Oh wait, it doesn’t have an intel processor so that’s bound to alter the equation. Damn, I never was very good at algebra.

Eric S.Mueller

I scoffed at the netbooks at first, until I decided to look into getting my wife a new laptop for Christmas. I looked around with her since I didn’t want to buy her something impractical, and we found that the netbooks are the best thing for her. There’s an Acer Aspire at Wal-mart that she likes. She keeps her laptop in the family room and occasionally takes it into the kitchen. The 8.9 inch Acer will be easy for her to store and carry and will satisfy her surfing and checking email. She thinks it’s perfect for her. Sje likes her laptop small anyway.


My AspireOne is becoming my preferred computer on the go because of its cost, portability, and no $MS windows. I found out that “a little is more.” gB

Comments are closed.