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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Netbooks have reshaped the market for portable computers

A few days ago, I had blogged about the netbook revolution, but at the time I didn't have data. Amazon has a page of the bestselling laptops, which is updated hourly. At 4:30 PM IST on 13th February, it shows:

1.ASUS Eee PC 1000HE XP Netbook
2.ASUS Eee PC 1000HAXP Netbook
3.Acer Aspire One AOD150-1165XP Netbook
4.ASUS Eee PC 1000HEXP Netbook
5.Acer Aspire One AOA150-1126XP Netbook
6.ASUS Eee PC 900HAXP Netbook
7.Acer Aspire One AOA150-1672XP Netbook
8.Samsung NC10-14GBXP Netbook
9.ASUS Eee PC 1000HAXP Netbook
10.Acer Aspire One AOA150-1359XP Netbook
11.MSI Wind U100-432USXP Netbook
12.Apple MacBook MB466LL/AUnix notebook
13.Acer Aspire One AOA150-1784XP Netbook
14.Apple MacBook MB881LL/AUnix notebook
15.Toshiba Satellite A305-S6908Vista notebook
16.Samsung NC10-14GWXP Netbook
17.Acer Aspire One AOA150-1447XP Netbook
19.Apple MacBook Pro MB134LL/AUnix notebook
20.ASUS Eee PC 904HAXP Netbook

This data shows quite an upheaval, in many dimensions.

Fat notebooks vs. netbooks
Suppose we caricature these machines as netbooks vs. `fat' notebooks. The picture here is that of the top 20 machines, there are four fat notebooks and 16 netbooks. Of these four, three are Apple and one is a Toshiba running Vista.
This is clearly not going well for Microsoft. Windows XP was launched in 2001. Vista was launched in 2006. And today, in early 2009, the above data shows that the biggest selling notebooks in the world are ignoring Vista. The highest ranked machine that's using Vista is at rank 15 above, and this is the only one of the top 20 which is using Vista.
Apple has three titles in these twenty hits, starting with #12. It is really quite an astonishing performance. Unix has never seen such mass-scale consumer adoption before. Apple's #12 title is at $1000. If they did a netbook at $500 it'd likely hit number 1. If they try that, the world of notebook computers will shape up as Apple versus Asus.
Linux and netbooks go very well together. Part of what is going on is what was pointed out by Naman in a comment on this blog post: Windows XP is a design frozen in 2006, while Linux is moving forward today and particularly in response to the unique engineering tradeoffs found on netbooks. Yet, as of today, customers are clearly favouring XP netbooks: this suggests that while they are able to dual-boot their machines with Linux, they are not yet ready to close the option of running Windows XP. The above data is one snapshot, and the picture fluctuates. E.g. I just looked and Linux netbooks were at #24, #36 and #49.
Hardware vendors
The top ten products are all Asus, Acer or Samsung. Traditional notebook vendors like Lenovo, HP or Dell are nowhere to be seen.


  1. you are (incorrectly) counting just the explicit costs of the netbook..include the (implicit)costs of providing internet infrastructure (think citi wide wifi networks) and the true cost of a net book balloons...certainly netbooks are the future but there r some years left till they become as commonly available in eastern european and asian(ex japan & korea) countries as they are in the US. No doubt both google and Apple are reshaping the face of computing and communication as we know computing is certainly here.

  2. Well, it also helps that those top models are also great computers and REALLY cheap.

    I've been in the market for a netbook myself. After doing some research, especially this post . . .

    Acer Aspire One vs Asus Eee PC

    I've decided on an Asus.

  3. Netbooks are pricey once you factor in the cost of an external CD player.

    "cloud computing is certainly here"
    cloud has been there for a couple of decades and it still hasn't gone anywhere.

    Cloud computing is half baked solution for a problem we don't have.


  4. Traditional notebook vendors like Lenovo, HP or Dell are nowhere to be seen
    Your data is not representative. Nobody buys a HP or dell through amazon.

    Elaborating on pricey point. Add $80 for an external CDRW/DVD combo, a netbook costs $440, which is what I got a HP dv4t for a deal during thanksgiving, with more memory,faster processors.

  5. I purchased a netbook (Asus Eee 904HA) last month and have been using it as my primary machine ever since. Back then, the same model was among the top 10 bestsellers. Its relocation to number 18 within the span of a month explains the pace of innovation taking place in this space. A netbook is meant for basic usage (browsing, blogging, office functions) and expecting it to fulfill your gaming or multimedia needs is unfair. The machine is very sturdy and it comes with a VGA slot which gives you the option of connecting it to a monitor in case you need a bigger display.

    The Intel Atom processor works fine and I would recommend upgrading to 2GB RAM (US$20) if you intend to have a dual boot – both Windows and Linux running on your machine. If you want to save yourself the hassle of traveling with an external CD/DVD drive, time and money, I would strongly recommend running Linux on your netbook. Unlike Windows, Linux recognizes the eventual mass move towards netbooks and has designed operating systems specifically for these machines. You can get most softwares (for free) therefore partially eliminating the need for a CD/DVD drive. Linux operating systems are well supported by users. Two forums which help are the Eeebuntu forum and EeeUser.

  6. therefore partially eliminating the need for a CD/DVD drive

    CDs are much more than that, You can't backup important stuff. Keep an extra copy of important presentation before a talk or read large data given to you. Can't watch a movie on a plane.

    I would wait for next gen with cd drives, before throwing money on a netbook.

    You get freeware utilities for windows too, which lets you install software off an iso image.

  7. It is unlikely that netbook manufacturers will release models with CD/DVD drives. Not only do the drives make the machine bulky, they are on their way to becoming obsolete. High capacity flash drives and SD cards will only become affordable and netbooks come with multiple USB ports as well as SD card readers. Both, flash drives and SD cards, can be used for multimedia storage and system backups.

    If you are uncomfortable moving away from Windows and want to avoid carrying those CD cases (and the drive), installing software off iso images is the way to go.

  8. See this page on choosing a Linux distribution for the Epc.

  9. Your blog post about Amazon and sale of linux netbooks is interesting. Compare and contrast with credible information from Dell that a full 33% of some of their netbooks are sold with Linux pre-installed. Must be something about Amazon that more XP netbooks are sold there.

  10. I guess there will also more than likely be other things left over that aren't listed.

  11. The top ten products are all Asus, Acer or Samsung. Traditional notebook vendors like Lenovo, HP or Dell are nowhere to be seen.


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