Asus, which has showed an increased interest in the mobile market the past few years, wants to become a top-3 notebook vendor and is apparently willing to buy its way there, according to a report in the Chinese-language Commercial Times.
As the Commercial Times tells it, Asus chairman Jonney Shih is pretty adamant about growing its notebook business through acquisitions, and has already reached out to Toshiba. Nothing has yet been finalized, and it's not even clear how far the two are in discussions about a possible deal.
It's not surprising that Asus would be interested in Toshiba's notebook business. Toshiba, which focuses mainly on regular sized notebooks, currently ranks No. 5 both worldwide and in the U.S. in laptop sales, while most of the success Asus has enjoyed comes from its Eee PC netbook line.
Panasonic this week introduced several upgrades to its existing Toughbook 19 rugged convertible tablet PC, including the addition of an Intel Core i5 540UM processor clocked at 1.2GHz (with Turbo Boost up to 2.0GHz).
Other features include 2GB of DDR3 memory (expandable to 8GB), a 10.4-inch LED backlit touchscreen display, 160GB SATA hard drive (optional 128GB SSD), 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, two USB 2.0 ports, SD card slot, and other ho-hum specs.
The real selling point here is the rugged design. According to Panasonic, the Toughbook 19 exceeds the MIL-STD-810G certification and can withstand a six-foot drop. The hard drive is shock-mounted and the magnesium alloy case has been certified for all kinds of nasty conditions, such as sand storms and heavy rain.
The Toughbook 19 is available now starting at $3,400 street.
Despite any talk of netbook sales starting to die down, these portable PCs continue to play a huge role in growing the mobile market. According to market research firm Gartner, notebook shipments rose by 43.4 percent in the first quarter of 2010, much of which can be attributed to a 71 percent jump in netbook sales. In addition, year-over-year growth in the laptop market was the highest it's been in the past eight years.
Over 49 million PCs were shipped around the world in the first quarter of 2010, and some 20 percent of those were netbooks. By comparison, netbooks accounted for roughly 13 percent of PC sales in the first quarter of 2009, Gartner said.
Not included in these sales figures are tablet devices, such as Apple's iPad. The reason? Gartner doesn't consider tablets as replacements for laptops and netbooks, even if Yankee Stadium might disagree.
Nvidia has just introduced what it claims is the world's fastest notebook GPU, the GeForce GTX 480M. Described as a "true tessellation monster for the notebook platform," the GTX 480M is Nvidia's mobile verson of Fermi, and judging by the spec sheet, this thing is a beast.
CUDA Cores: 352
Graphics Clockspeed: 425MHz
Processor Clockspeed: 850MHz:
Texture Fill Rate (billions/sec): 18.7
Memory Clockspeed: 1200MHz
At a glance, those clockspeeds look a little concerning, but the end result is 897 gigaflops of computing power, compared to 413 for ATI's flagship mobile GPU. The mobile Fermi part will also come with up to 2GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit memory bus. Other marketing bullets include PhysX, OpenCL, PureVideo HD, Blu-ray decoding, 3D Vision, and support for DirectX 11.
Nvidia says it has partnered with Clevo to introduce the first system based on the GeForce GTX 480M architecture.
Best Buy's latest pricing strategy has come under fire in the tech community, and for good reason. As the Consumerist tells it, the electronics chain has been jacking up the prices of certain laptop models by $20 to $50 over their own regular pricing and then slapping an "As Advertised" sticker on the units in-store. Deceptive? Yeah, just a little. But illegal? Apparently not -- Best Buy isn't marking these as sale items, so it's all good in the hood, even if the company's street cred takes yet another hit.
Citing a dude named Donald, the Consumerist lists out several specific models with inflated price tags, including a Dell laptop (SKU 9693171) now selling for $649.99 instead of $629.99, and an HP notebook (SKU 9705373) advertised for $699.99 instead of $649.99.
So is this a blatant case of Best Buy charging an idiot tax? We're not so sure. A quick glance at Best Buy's online listings for both above mentioned models show the higher price tag, so either Best Buy adjusted its pricing after the media caught wind of what was going on, or the Consumerist is off its rocker. But there's also a third scenario. According to Engadget, Best Buy is bundling 6 months of Ask an Agent and Virus and Spyware Protection into each of the offers. These normally run an extra $20 each, or $40 total, which would explain the higher pricing.
We knew Seagate was cooking up a hybrid hard drive that would combine an SSD and HDD under the same hood, but most of the information we had was based on speculation and leaked specs. Things are a bit more concrete now, as Seagate today officially unveiled what it claims is the "world's fastest hard drive for laptop computers."
It's called the Momentus XT and it comes in three capacities, including 250GB, 320GB, and 500GB. These hybrid drives will sport 4GB of fast SLC NAND solid state memory, a 7200RPM spindle speed, 32MB of drive-level cache, and SATA 3Gb/s with NCQ.
"We see the Momentus ® XT drive as a game changer, a product heralding a new generation of hard drives that combine SSD and HDD capabilities so that laptop users don’t have to make trade-offs on speed, cost or capacity," said Dave Mosley, Seagate executive vice president of Sales, Marketing and Product Line Management.
To squeeze the most performance out of its hybrid drive, Seagate has implemented what it calls Adaptive Memory technology. What this does is analyze patterns in how often certain digital data is used and then moves the most frequently used bits to the embedded solid state memory for faster access.
Amazon is doing everything it can to keep its ebook platform relevant, and to help do that, the Web store went and partnered with Asus, who has agreed to pre-install the "Kindle for PC" application on select netbooks and notebooks sold at Amazon.com.
"We are thrilled that customers will begin to enjoy the Kindle for PC experience right out of the box with ASUS devices," said Ben Thacker, VP Sales and Product Management, Systems Business Group, North American Channel, ASUS Computer International. "Kindle is something our customers have been asking for and by pre-installing Kindle for PC on select long battery life products, we believe we are providing our customers an even richer PC experience. Working with a customer-centric company such as Amazon and pre-installing their Kindle for PC application is a natural fit for ASUS."
The move also helps Amazon stave off what's sure to be increasing competition by a handheld tablet market on the verge of exploding. Apple's iPad is just the first of what's expected to be many tablet releases this year, and as the iPad has shown, tablets are up to the task in performing ebook chores.
So far there are six Asus netbooks/notebooks sporting the Kindle app, including the 1005PE-MU27-BK, 1005PE-MU27-BU, 1005PE-MU27-WT, 1005PE-MU27-PI, UL30A-X5K, and UL30VT-X1K.
Netbooks were never intended to replace laptops, and with the slim profit margin on each one sold, you wouldn't think OEMS would want that to be the case anyway. According to Dell, however, that's exactly how some of its competitors have been pitching this underpowered PC segment.
"There's been some over-exuberance on this product in the marketplace," said Steve Felice, president of Dell's consumer, small and medium-size business unit, during a conference call with reporters. "Some of our competitors have positioned [netbooks] as a replacement device and then you see feedback from customers that are disappointed when they gave up their notebook for a netbook and find that it's not quite as fast or doesn't have quite the same functionality."
We have a hard time imagining a netbook being used as a primary PC, and apparently so does Dell. According to Felice, netbooks are not a replacement for laptops, and users shouldn't rely on them as such.
"We think we're selling the appropriate number of these products to the appropriate set of needs," Felice added.
Battery packs shipped in HP notebook PC products manufactured between August 2007 and May 2008 may pose a potential safety hazard to customers, HP said on Wednesday. The batteries can overheat and pose a fire and/or burn hazard.
HP had already issued a worldwide voluntary recall for the potentially faulty batteries, and has now added several more to the list. Additional models include HP, HP Pavilion, HP Compaq, and Compaq Presario products, over 31 SKUs in all.
If you own one of the affected models, HP will send out a replacement battery pack at no cost. According to HP, less than 3 percent of the notebook PC products manufactured in the above time frame are included in the program.
Taking a cue from Dell's notebook nomenclature, Microsoft today announced the Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 Studio Series with a fresh new look.
"Our team wanted to take these mice a step beyond color, and offer you a way to really mix it up," Microsoft wrote in a blog post. "A collaborative effort, each graphic began as a series of sketches, which eventually filled the entire hallway outside our design studio. After much debate, the selected favorites were evolved into digital drawings and infused into the surface of each mouse."
Apparently Microsoft found inspiration for its new designs both in nature and from "bold and modern graphic styles [found in] the skate and snowboard industry today." The designs have been dubbed Wave, Folk, and Geode, and other than the aesthetics, the Wireless Mobile 3500 rodents haven't changed.