Notebooks to 'outsell desktops by 2010'

|Mar 11|magazine10 min read
During the past ten years, notebooks have increased from a 20 per cent market share to almost 50 per cent, and they are expected to outsell desktop computers by the end of the decade, according to Intel developers attending a forum in Taipei last month.
Mooly Eden, Intel vice president and general manager of the Mobility Platforms Group, believes the internet is the main driver behind the growth in laptop computers.
"If you believe that one of the most persuasive things today is to be connected to the internet, (then you'll know) it's unnatural for us to be tethered to a desktop," he said.
He says the popularity of the mobile phone also proves that people want to stay in touch with the world while they're on the move.
"When you look at the level of phone penetration since Alexandra Graham Bell (invented the phone), it goes slowly up and then it goes hockey stick," Mr Eden said.
"What's happened here? It's the cellular phone - it's mobile. That's because it's more natural for people to move around than to be stuck with a fixed phone." But being mobile and connected isn't the only reason the mobile phone has been so popular.
According to Mr Eden, it's because the phone is also personal - for many people it's an extension of themselves.
"If you're not convinced how personal the mobile phone has become, take a look at the range of colours and listen to the plethora of ring tones in the market today," he adds.
Mr Eden says computing is responding to that desire for portability and personalisation.
However, the laptop still needs to overcome four barriers - performance, power, form and connectivity.
"(In the past), we took a desktop solution and tried to stretch it down, reduce the power, reduce the performance, reduce everything and stick into a notebook," said Mr Eden.
"The result was the notebook was suboptimal, not sexy, and the volume we sold didn't justify the development of it."
"So we identified the four barriers, and got the charter to say, `let's design the chip from the ground up'."
The result has seen notebooks become smaller, more portable and much more marketable.
Notebook manufacturers have begun releasing coloured notebooks in Australia, and in chic European countries such as France and Italy they are becoming a fashion item.
According to Mr Eden, the one remaining hurdle for notebooks is connectivity.
In the past four years, WiFi card penetration in notebooks has jumped from 10 per cent to over 90 per cent, allowing users to connect to the internet whenever they are close to a "hotspot".
"Today if something comes to a hotel or the airport, they expect to connect," Mr Eden said.
He believes WiMAX technology is the next step, allowing people to connect to the internet up to 20 kilometres from a base station.
"From an economic point of view (WiMAX) will enable you to give bandwidth at a cheaper price than other 3G technologies,'' Mr Eden said.
"If you look at 3G, the penetration rate is less than 10 per cent. Why? Because people don't want it? No, it's because it's not affordable. Intel is working with the Taiwanese government in a large national rollout of WiMAX.
"Intel believes that if you use the right infrastructure, there are inherent advantages to WiMAX, which will deliver a more cost effective solution," Mr Eden said.
Mr Eden believes notebook computers will allow developing nations catch up with industrialised nations. To make this become a reality, Intel is developing a low-power, high-performance chip, which it hopes will form the core of one billion new notebooks in the developing world.
"You will see a new chip, which was designed from scratch," Mr Eden said.
"(When we started the chip design), we looked at it and said we're not going to design Manhattan, because we can't afford $10 million a house. We need to design something more affordable."
"We want to have something that people in China or Vietnam can afford, and this is the microprocessor we designed."
Despite being designed for the developing world, Mr Eden admits there could be a big market within the education sector.
"Is there a chance for schools? Maybe, because if you look at all those kids carrying a gazillion books, I think 'why can't you fit it in a small notebook?'"