Dell, Acer, Intel, and others together are, in effect, creating a muddle of light laptop categories as part of a not-so-well-orchestrated marketing strategy, according to an analyst. This is expected to become particularly acute when a deluge of new Windows 7 laptops hit the market this week.
Acer offered a graphic example of this recently when it introduced a small, inexpensive Windows 7 notebook--the Aspire Timeline AS1810T--that, from all outward appearances, looks like a Netbook. But it isn't--at least as defined by Intel. It's a new category of laptop called an ultrathin.
"There's a lot of confusion that Intel has created and they haven't really segmented the market that well," according to Bob O'Donnell, an IDC Research vice president.
And it gets more complicated. The inexpensive ultrathin is, in turn, competing now with the expensive luxury laptops, like the Dell Adamo, according to O'Donnell. "Ironically, what's actually happening we think is that the (ultrathin) is actually killing the high-end ultraportable," O'Donnell said.
Here's the problem: any given Windows 7 laptop with an 11.6- or 12-inch screen could be a Netbook, an ultrathin, or a high-end ultraportable, each with distinctly different price-performance characteristics not readily apparent to consumers.
"There's too many overlapping products," according to O'Donnell. Intel tried to prevent this from happening by declaring that any laptop with a screen larger than 10 inches diagonally is not a Netbook. That policy is fine in theory but does not carry over to the real world of head-butting competition among PC makers where even the subtlest production differentiation can mean a leg up on the competition.
Intel says look at performance and price. "Which offers the best performance overall? That's important," said Intel spokesman Bill Calder. "Pricing is a factor too. While some ultrathin laptops including 11.6 and higher are very affordable, none are in the $249 to $399 range that typically defines a Netbook," Calder said.
Some consumers might say it's not a big deal. But… Read more