At SXSW Smartphones Rule, Notebooks Drool


img00003After a day spent roaming the halls of the Austin Convention Center at South by Southwest listening in on other peoples’ conversations and tracking trends, I am somewhat surprised by the relative scarcity of notebooks. In years past, the halls were lined with people glued to the walls, power cords linking their laptops (usually Macs) to the outlets. Others would be clustered around tables working on their notebooks.

They’re still here, but are far fewer. Right now, I can see several open tables and an entire open outlet. Instead, people are clustered around mobile phones, showing off applications, photos or videos. You can see little clusters of them dotting the halls, like this group I photographed here. I’ve even seen one or two people charging their iPhones, rather than charging notebooks, in an outlet. As for netbooks, I haven’t seen many at all.

The folks attending this show are generally ahead of the computing trends in the general population, so while I don’t foresee folks dumping their notebooks in favor of smartphones, I do think people are more comfortable with letting their smartphone be their computer for a longer amount of time. The willingness of these attendees to rely mainly on their phones on the floor of the conference is a shift from years before. I bet it’s a shift that continues as mobile phones get smarter and mobile broadband gets better.


Devin Davis

Stacey. I am just catching up on my weekend news via reader and wanted to let you know that your headline writing is on fire. 3 out of 4 provided chuckles. And then came with good articles. Nice work.

Rob Adler

Netbooks are too big to carry around a show. They are relpacing laptops for people who are working in one place (e.g. booth or seminar). An iPhone is good enough most other situations. A few minor changes could make it alot better. See: Link


While I totally believe (and am a part of) the smartphone explosion, we can’t let the Silicon Valley elite lure us into thinking this is a mainstream adoption. For example, my target audience is 13-25 year olds and very few of them have smartphones. Basically, their parents give them the free flip phone and/or upgrade to the SideKick text powerhouse.

GoEverywhere Team

In a way I’m not surprised. You can throw your mobile phone in your pocket and still get as much work done – whether you’re answering emails or doing some social networking. You can even logon to your personal webtop to access files and and your uploaded documents! Now you can truly take your work anywhere. Hope you’re having a blast at SXSW, I wish I was there!!


My laptop is my desktop and my iPhone is now my laptop. I didn’t bother taking my laptop overseas. I see this more and more at my company. Better wireless and battery life will drive this even faster. And more Web pages designed for ‘mobile’ (ahem).


Mobile phones are really getting smarter nowadays that is why I’m more comfortable using them than my laptop.


You did not see netbooks because Apple does not have a netbook yet.

Though SxSW has the geek elite, they are not biting on netbooks cause it does not run osx…

You are absolutely right about the smartphone obeservation though …


Also has a lot to do with the declining merit of live-blogging sessions and the increasing merit of posting quips and comments via Twitter, which lends itself to mobile phone keyboards much moreso than a blog post. Also, our phones are now our cameras, so we’ve cut out the USB cable and PC in the shoot-upload-share process. Since SXSW is probably more party than panel, burdening onesself with a macbook is a real pain in the ass moving from bar to bar.

Still, your observations are really interesting. Unplug and have fun!

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