They’re Mini-Notebooks, not Netbooks

IDC's O'Donnell: Mini-notebooks, not netbooks
IDC’s O’Donnell: Mini-notebooks, not netbooks

I just got off the horn (real reporters never call it the phone) Bob O’Donnell who tracks netbooks, er, ahem, “mini-notebooks” for IDC, one the two pre-eminent research firms that track personal computer sales and trends (Gartner is the other). Bob likes the term mini-notebook because he see them as companions to other larger and more powerful PC notebooks and desktops.

“People view them as notebooks instead of its being a web only device. We see it as a companion device,” says O’Donnell, vice president of clients and displays. “They originally had tiny screens, tiny keyboards and ran Linux and quite honestly did not do that well. Now almost 100% Windows.”

IDC conducted a spot check of users in January andy found consumers use mini-notebook the same way they use notebooks – email, browsing and word-processing.A larger study is underway to confirm the earlier finding, O’Donnell says. The idea with netbooks is that all a user needs is access to web to get and his or her data and applications. The term “netbook,” says O’Donnell. was coined by Intel to signify that they were different from notebooks, but anyone using now clearly knows that are simply the smaller sibling to Windows-based notebooks.

“We actually call mini-notebooks/netbooks because you can’t ignore the term everyone uses,” he says. Actually, the term netbook is at the center of a lawsuit where Psion is suing Intel for infringing on its trademarks so you can see why everyone may be calling them mini-notebooks, now.

And speaking of Windows, O’Donnell thinks Android-based netbooks that have grabbed the spotlight for the past couple of weeks “don’t stand a chance” competing against mini-notebooks. Android is a Linux-based operating system originally developed by Google and since taken over by the Open Handset Alliance.

“The fact is people did not want Linux or just a web-only device. Didn’t they learn the first time? Android doesn’t have device drivers and is for smart phones. Sure, everyone wants an alternative, but those are the folks who want anything but Windows or  people in Silicon Valley who want to say they have an Android netbook.”

O’Donnell isn’t buying that ARM-based netbooks will be that much cheaper than Wintel mini-notebooks, either.

“They’re not going to sell for $50. The bill of materials for an ARM-based device and Atom-based is not that different. It’s maybe $20 and all the other stuff such as memory, the display and keyboard are not going away. There’s no secret sauce here. To me, this smacks of people who want to say there’s an alternative and who hate Microsoft.”

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