The netbook craze continues. The little laptops took center stage at the recently completed Computex conference, with dozens of new devices and prototypes on display. But while one would think that the netbook explosion would have all of the involved parties singing happy songs around a campfire, that’s not the case. In fact, there appears to be more drama in the netbook scene than there is on “Jon & Kate Plus 8.“
Just prior to Computex 2009, Microsoft (s MSFT) regained some lost points with consumers by removing the three concurrent applications limit of the Windows 7 Starter Edition. This version is the one most likely to be offered with a netbook, although most devices are capable of running higher versions. The Starter Edition is still hobbled by other limits, though: no Aero features, limited personalization features, no DVD-playback support nor remote media streaming from another PC.
Unfortunately, it’s a case of one step forward and two steps back with Microsoft as the Redmond company also decided to impose a new hardware limit for netbooks running Windows 7, restricting them to using either a flash-based SSD drive or a magnetic hard drive, but not both. Say goodbye to Windows on the MSI Wind U115 netbook. That’s a pity, because the hybrid storage system offers up to 50 percent more battery life than a similar, non-hybrid netbook.
This type of drama around WinTel netbooks welcomes other players with open ARMs. NVIDIA’s Tegra (s NVDA) made an appearance in various devices at Computex as did Qualcomm’s Snapdragon (s QCOM) chipset. Each is touting the low-power efficiency of their platform, while offering high-powered experience with HD playback. However, both are taking a slightly different approach in the netbook campfire. Many of the Tegra-powered devices were in the MID, or Mobile Internet Device, category. And Qualcomm has decided it really doesn’t want to play in the netbook market at all. Its newest device class looks like a netbook, but the company is calling it a smartbook. Which makes sense since it’s really using the guts of a smartphone in a netbook-styled chassis with a full keyboard. We’ll have to wait until the third quarter to see how “smart” they really are, however, which is when Qualcomm expects to deliver them.