Tag Archives: netbook

The iPad’s Disruption Of The Windows PC Market

Windows PC vs iPad
Chart via Horace Dediu

Now we can actually confirm that the day the iPad was introduced, Personal Computing changed forever.

Two years earlier, 2008 was the year of the netbook. Analysts would doubt whether Steve Jobs was right to dismiss netbooks when he insisted Apple would never launch one.

And once a gain his genius was spot on. In 2010 the iPad created a new category that made netbooks completely irrelevant. The rise of the netbook signaled a need for light computers with long battery duration and just powerful enough for everyday use. Now we know the answer was not going to be just a smaller PC.

The inevitable growth of broadband pipes and services in the cloud are a perfect fit for tablets, phablets and smartphones to become a more and more frequent replacement of laptops in our daily life. In emerging markets the leapfrog to wireless broadband and mobile computing is a reality. It will only accelerate the trend the chart shows.

Microsoft has a big problem with mobile and tablets. Windows 8 is a compromise to address tablets and desktops, but it is not working neither of them. Microsoft faces disruption in the personal computing space they used to dominate. Compromises have never worked well in face of disruption.

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Netbooks, Moore’s Law And Which New App Will Come for Rescue?

eeepc

The rise of Netbooks, of which 21 million units* will be sold in 2009, may put in jeopardy the progression of Moore’s Law, as netbooks cannibalize sales of laptops. As a result of Moore’s Law, the price of a mid-range PC has not changed much since long, but every year the power of the machine you buy doubles the one available a year before. This exponential growth in performance can be easily tracked in the amount of storage that you get each year for a $25 SD card (8GB in 2008 vs 4GB in 2007) or for a $100 hard drive (1TB in 2008 vs 500GB in 2007). For microprocessors the rule is shifting from doubling clock speed, to doubling the number of cores every 12-18 months. This geometrical progression results in a laptop in 2018 with 256 cores and 32 TB solid-state drive.

Nebooks are driving Moore’s Law in a different direction. A Netbook has the power of a PC of 3-4 years ago, just at a fraction of the cost. And the reason netbooks replace laptops is that they can run the same basic applications that most people use: web browsing, email, writing docs or Skype. Although conceived as an ideal second ultraportable computer for road warriors, netbooks could become the prime PC for basic use in the office and at home for many in these times of recession.

Software, and in particular Windows, have driven the evolution of the PC hardware with “hungrier” software versions every few years. But Vista failed to bring any breakthrough features compared to Windows XP, and netbooks are benefiting from that.

What do software developers have in their roadmaps that will need 256 cores in ten years? Video editing, media encoding or photo processing software need powerful CPUs, but unless the future bring us an OS with disruptive user interfaces with 3D virtual reality, HD, plus voice and gesture detection, it is difficult to imagine why we will need 256 cores in a laptop or desktop PC.

What is sure is that Multi-Core CPUs fit nicely with server virtualization, and that will make data centers which host the cloud more cost-efficient. The demand for multi-core processors for servers will sure drive the CPU market, but will it be able to do it at the same pace as desktops were doing before? If we are to believe in the success of the cloud, not only the value is shifting from the OS to the Cloud, also the demand for stronger processors is.

We could well end up in 2018 with 256-core servers in the data centers and ultra small low-cost dual-core devices in our pockets connected to the cloud.

* The Economist: Less is Moore

Update:
Intel could report soon the first quarterly loss in 21 years. Even if they say Atom margins are similar to those of the high-end processors, there is always the doubt if cannibalization has anything to do with the loss. On the other side AMD says they will not address the market for netbook processors, instead putting all eggs on the high-end CPUs that will power cloud servers. Will we see the 256-core CPUs somewhere else than in servers?

Top 5 Disruptions in the Past Twelve Months

These are the top hottest five topics that we have covered over the past twelve months with the biggest potential for a disruption in both the Communications Industry and in our habits.

1) Mobile Internet, the Internet way.
The iPhone and Google’s Android have revolutionized Mobile Internet in the handset, making web browsing such a cool and better experience that operators have embraced unlimited data plans for the first time, in bundle with these “next-gen” handsets (well, in fact operators did it first with Blackberry for unlimited enterprise email). Downloadable Mobile Apps were already available for Symbian, J2ME, Windows Mobile and Blackberry, but never have they been hotter than they are now on App Store and App Market. The Winners: Apple and Google (and even Blackberry to a certain extent). The Losers: Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Windows Mobile. The short-term winners, long-term who-knows?: The Service Providers that are cashing-in the flat fee Unlimited Data plans, but sacrificing their chances to ever control again the Mobile Internet as they did before.

2) Cloud Computing.
Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine, Google Apps, IBM “Cloud consulting”, or Google releasing Chrome to run complex apps on the browser at full speed, have made headlines in 2008. Startups such as Animoto run on Amazon’s cloud to enjoy flexible on-demand computer scalability (no wonder Amazon is also an investor in Animoto). The hype is such that these days everything is getting cloudy (or re-defined as cloudy) : GPS navigators face competition from the clouds with Google Maps (maps run on the cloud, with real-time info update and interactive recommendations/ads). Even speech recognition now runs in the cloud with Google Mobile App. The Winners: Google getting us to spend more time online, pioneer Amazon that gets economies of scale, and the IT vendors, such as HP or IBM, that will equip clouds. The Losers: Microsoft, for the moment. SaaS running on a browser make the OS less relevant. The catastrophe of Vista has only help the Cloud cause with enterprises eager to consider alternatives. Microsoft is building huge data-centers and will be a big cloud player too. For the moment, the cloud will put pressure on them.

3) Internet TV.
Hulu has brought national broadcast TV shows to the Internet. YouTube has confirmed the revolution of Internet Video, now well into the mainstream. YouTube not only is reaching agreements with content owners to be an ad-based platform for content distribution, but it has been a huge platform for politicians for the US 2008 presidential campaign, and now for President-elect’s change.gov. Not to mention the new habits of kids to search YouTube for information instead of searching Google. The Winners: All of us that now have virtually unlimited video content, including old-time TV jewels, just one click away. The Losers (yet to be confirmed): Broadcasters that will cannibalize higher CPMs revenues of traditional TV, with much lower CPMs prices in the online world. The effect is still small but innovative models will be needed before the cannibalization goes too far.

4) Wireless Broadband. With HSDPA or EVDO widely deployed, the 3G networks are now beginning to deliver on past promises. WiMAX has also seen in the past twelve months many commercial launches, and will play a key role in emerging markets where fixed broadband is not a financially viable option. The Winners: Mobile Operators that will get an additional source of revenues selling Mobile broadband, and opening the door to Machine2Machine applications taking advantage of ubiquitous wireless connectivity. The potential losers (not yet): Fixed Operators will need to keep fixed broadband ahead in terms of performance, to avoid substitution by wireless. Mobile Operators will lose too, as their hopes to make Mobile Internet different from fixed vanish.

5) Netbooks.
Asus EEE PC has been followed by most laptop vendors (supported by Intel low-power low-cost processors such as ATOM)  to bring a new class of 1 kg laptops with less than 9″ screens, ideal to enjoy full Internet on the go. Combined with Wireless Broadband, these low-cost laptops are not only a great companion for road-warriors but also are likely to power Internet access in many emerging countries as an affordable PC solution. The Winners: Millions of new Internet users worldwide, as well as Internet addicts. Flash memory manufacturers. The Losers: High-end lightweight laptop makers, that will face competition from low-end machines with enough power for everyday use. DVD/CD writers and disc makers, with discs replaced by memory cards and the disc writer by a card reader.

Eee PC: Linux or XP?

Jim was decided to buy a netbook. One friend recommended him the Asus Eee PC. Jim does not know much about computers, but his brother-in-law Greg is one of these geeks that knows everything about the latest toys.

Jim: Which Eee should I buy? Linux or XP?

Greg: First, among the Eee models, I would recommend you go for the Eee PC 901, with a solid-state disk (SSD). You have less storage than with a hard-drive but the SSD is lighter, faster and has no mechanical parts, so it is shock-proven. The Linux version brings 20GB (split into 4GB+16GB) SSD and the Windows XP version 12GB (4GB+8GB) at the same price. In both cases the 4GB drive is faster and stores the OS. The second drive, although double the size in the Linux version, should not be a key deciding factor. If 8GB is not enough you can add a 16GB SD card today, and next year 32GB SD cards will be available. So in the long run the storage is not the key factor in the decision. The key is, what do you want to do with your Eee PC?

Jim: Well, I guess typical stuff: email, web browsing, deal with documents, communicate with Skype…

Greg: For that both Linux and XP will do. Both have a browser, both come with OpenOffice and access to Google Docs and Skype. Anything more sophisticated you want to do?

Jim: Let me think… well… yes, multimedia. I want to see pictures, music and video.

Greg: For video, download VLC player.  It plays any format in the world, including YouTube flash. You can download it free and install it easily in XP or in the Xandros Linux distribution that comes with the Eee. Just be aware that if you want to add a VLC icon to Xandros you will need to edit a few configuration files.

Jim: What about adding an USB TV Tuner? I think that would be cool to watch TV while on the go…

Greg: Most tuners come only with Windows drivers, but you can make Windows drivers run on Linux with ndiswrapper. You might need to recompile the Kernel, but it should work.

Jim: One more thing, I want to access my desktop PC from the netbook to watch all movies stored in its 500GB hard-drive. You know, I want to use the desktop PC as a server.

Greg: That is easy with XP. With Linux you just need a program called Samba. It is then straight forward, but just note that if your server/desktop is Vista, there are some flaws in Vista implementation of Samba protocol and you will need some workaround to connect from Linux.

Jim:  I almost forgot, but being so portable I want to connect to the 3G wireless network using my Nokia phone as a modem connected via bluetooth.

Greg: I do not think Nokia will provide you their phone suite in other than Windows, but if you investigate in Linux forums there might be a way to do it.

Jim: And what about the access to my company VPN. I currently access from XP, will that work in Linux?

Greg: With a little investigation you might find the way … hopefully.

Jim: Mm, Greg, all these things about editing config files, installing ndiswrapper, and all the investigations to connect to Vista, to a phone built-in 3G modem and to the VPN… are not a bit too much for someone like me who does not have a clue about Linux or any Unix?

Greg: Look Jim,  if you want to learn Linux, and you want to use your computer for Internet in Wifi hotspots, go for the Linux/Xandros version. If you must connect to your company VPN, use 3G through your phone, connect easily to Vista computers and add TV tuners and other USB toys, go for Windows XP. It is not so cool as Linux, but you are more likely to get sophisticated things working without spending hours in Linux forums getting deep into it.

Jim: But Greg… weren’t you a fanatic of Linux?

Greg: And I am Jim. Linux is great for servers, for embedded systems and soon for mobile handsets. But today we still live in a Windows world for the desktop. Pragmatics still choose Windows. If you want to be part of those changing the wold to make the desktop free from Windows, go and buy the Linux netbook and enjoy making it work and helping others get a free OS.

And by the way, if anybody has a hint on how to easily fix these issues for Xandros, please post a comment below and share your experience.