I’ve been waiting for this to hit the web – I read it in the print edition of Wired a few days ago. It’s called “The Netbook Effect: How Cheap Little Laptops Hit the Big Time” and it’s a really good look at how the whole netbook industry took off, and how it went in directions that nobody anticipated, starting with the One Laptop Per Child, and then Asustek’s response with their Eee PC line.
It’s four pages long, but well worth a read if you are interested in some of the behind-the-scenes type of stuff or in seeing where they think the market is headed (hint: some PC makers won’t be happy).
Among some of the topics it touches on:
– Why many of the early netbooks/ultraportables had Solid State Drives (SSDs)
– How Asustek thought the Eee PC line would be bought mainly by kids, senior citizens, and folks in India and China
– How PC Makers either didn’t realize or ignored the fact that most mainstream computers and laptops on the market today are much more powerful than anything needed by the typical user.
– How in a single year, netbooks went from being 0% to 7% of the entire world’s laptop market.
The article covers how many of us ended up buying computers or laptops/notebooks that perhaps we didn’t really need:
For years now, without anyone really noticing, the PC industry has functioned like a car company selling SUVs: It pushed absurdly powerful machines because the profit margins were high, while customers lapped up the fantasy that they could go off-roading, even though they never did. So coders took advantage of that surplus power to write ever-bulkier applications and operating systems.
What netbook makers have done, in effect, is turn back the clock: Their machines perform the way laptops did four years ago. And it turns out that four years ago (more or less) is plenty….
For most of today’s computing tasks, the biggest performance drags aren’t inside the machine. They’re outside. Is your Wi-Fi signal strong? Is Twitter down again?
Netbooks are evidence that we now know what personal computers are for.Which is to say, a pretty small list of things that are conducted almost entirely online. This was Asustek’s epiphany
The article also touches upon what scares the PC industry the most:
The great terror in the PC industry is that it’s created a $300 device so good, most people will simply no longer feel a need to shell out $1,000 for a portable computer. They pray that netbooks remain a “secondary buy”â€”the little mobile thingy you get after you already own a normal-size laptop. But it’s also possible that the next time you’re replacing an aging laptop, you’ll walk into the store and wonder, “Why exactly am I paying so much for a machine that I use for nothing but email and the Web?” And Microsoft and Intel and Dell and HP and Lenovo will die a little bit inside that day.
Read: Wired Magazine.