Advanced Micro Devices has said that it remains ahead of schedule with its Fusion chips - or APUs (accelerated processing unit) as it likes to call them. The low-power “Ontario” SoC (System-on-Chip), aimed at netbooks and low-end notebooks, will be the first Fusion chip on the market when it makes its debut during the fourth quarter.
AMD has, in fact, pushed in Ontario’s launch, which was previously scheduled for next year, citing accelerated development owing to great interest from consumers. However, the company plans to steer clear of the burgeoning tablet market for now, restricting Ontario to netbooks and low-end notebooks.
At the recent D8 conference, Steve Jobs said the PC industry would be minimized in favor of touchscreen devices. Well, if it's going to happen, it isn't happening yet. Forrester Research has just released some new projctions showing strong future growth across the PC industry; tablets included. Their report says that over the next five years, PC sales will increase by 52%. The only category of computers set to see a decline is the venerable desktop PC.
Forrester also points out the increases in sales of tablets will likely cannibalize netbook sales, bypassing them in 2012. The report claims that tablets will account for 23% of computing device sales by 2015. While the desktop may be declining in 2015, Forester claims they will still be used by more consumers than any other variety of computer. If Forrester is correct, we can all cling to our desktops for just a little longer.
If you prefer your netbooks in the Windows XP flavor, you might want to plan ahead and buy a six pack. Starting this coming October, Microsoft will no longer allow manufacturers to install XP on netbooks. Microsoft has previously alerted OEMs to this, but took the opportunity this week to remind everyone.
Microsoft went out of its way to optimize Windows 7 for netbooks, and most users seem to be fine with the newer OS. The number of Windows 7 netbooks has been increasing steadily, while XP machines are declining, Though, there are still a number of XP netbooks being sold.
OEMs are rumored to be paying about $50 per Windows 7 license, as opposed to a mere $15 for XP. We can see why they'd want to continue offering XP on some machines, given the famously low profit margins on netbooks. Do you still want XP on your netbooks?
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.
Google's cloud-based Chrome OS is scheduled for a year-end release, with the first devices based on the platform slated to arrive early next year. The fact that it will be rooted in the cloud should restrict its use to casual computing devices like netbooks and tablets. But what will Chrome devices cost?
Well, according to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, about as much as any reasonably priced netbook currently on the market. He said at the Atmosphere Cloud Computing forum that Chrome devices should cost anywhere between $300-400, while making it clear Google will have no say in setting the price of such products.
"Those prices are completely determined, by the way, by the costs of the glass, the costs of the processor and things like that, but in our case Chrome OS and Android are free so there is no software tax associated with all of this,” he said.
When Asus first showed off the Eee Keyboard , no one actually expected it to ship. It was more an exercise in engineering than a product people would buy. But after a number of delays, the Eee Keybaord is on its way to shipping later this month. Asus really promises to ship it this time, and we're willing to believe them for now.
The Eee Keybard is basically a netbook's chipset in a keyboard form factor. There is an integrated 5-inch 480x800 resolution capacitive touchscreen display in place of the number pad. It has an Atom N270 and runs Windows XP. Though, Asus has added a skin to XP making it more finger-friendly. Users will also find 1GB of RAM and the option for either 16 or 32GB SSDs. The real star here is the addition of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) for wireless audio and video. The Eee Keyboard will come with a small receiver to plug into a TV or monitor allowing the signal to be streamed from the safety of the couch.
In its original form, the Eee Keyboard didn't make much sense for anything. With the UWB technology, it has at least a shot at being a passable media center PC. The price is expected to be between $400 and $600. Anyone going to take one of these for a spin?
Let’s talk about love. When you love something, you love it for what it is, not what it isn’t. We love netbooks; we don’t care that they can’t really do games, or HD Flash video, or any media encoding to speak of. We know what we want—all-day computing in a formfactor small enough to toss into a knapsack or messenger bag and barely know it’s there, and cheap enough to be viable as a secondary PC. Toshiba’s first netbook, the NB205, came out in the latter half of 2009, but was immediately lauded as a shining exemplar of netbook craft. So, can the NB305, its Atom N450–toting successor, replicate the NB205’s success?
With the NB305, Toshiba has opted for a gentle refinement of the 205 rather than an all-out reimagining. Aside from the new Pine Trail N450 CPU and the Windows 7 Starter OS, the NB305 is virtually identical to its predecessor. Both share standard netbook specs: 1GB DDR2 RAM, a 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and a 10.1-inch 1024x600 screen. And the 305 replicates the NB205’s styling almost identically, from the matte-silver plastic chassis, textured lid, and matching bezel to the striped touch pad and chiclet keyboard.
Researchers at Georgia Institute of technology have devised a new "bottom-up" self-assembly technique to overcome technical difficulties that had rendered more efficient silicon-based anodes impractical. The current crop of batteries only feature anodes made from graphite.
But the new technique uses “nanotechnology to fine-tune its materials properties,” allowing silicon-based anodes to be more stable inside the battery, and thereby paving the way for “a ten-fold capacity improvement over graphite.” Not only will the new technique improve the storage capacity of Li-ion batteries manifold, but such batteries will also last much longer.
"Development of a novel approach to producing hierarchical anode or cathode particles with controlled properties opens the door to many new directions for lithium-ion battery technology," said Gleb Yushin, an assistant professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "This is a significant step toward commercial production of silicon-based anode materials for lithium-ion batteries."
The Sony Vaio P is a weird device. It’s much smaller than a netbook, but much better-equipped. It has wireless broadband access from Verizon, onboard GPS, a ThinkPad-style pointing stick, and an eye-straining high-resolution screen. It’s also incredibly expensive. So who exactly is the Vaio P for?
At just 9.8 inches across, 0.8 inches thick, and 4.8 inches deep, and weighing just one pound, five ounces, the Vaio P is made for mobility—it makes a 10-inch netbook look like a desktop replacement. Into those tiny dimensions Sony crams parts that—on paper—put your old Atom netbook to shame. The Vaio P uses a 2GHz Atom Z550 paired with the US15W chipset and GMA500 integrated graphics. By comparison, last year’s typical netbook used a 1.6GHz N280 on an Intel GSE945 chipset with GMA950 graphics. The Vaio P also ships with 2GB of DDR2/533 and a whopping 256GB Samsung MLC SSD, which itself is responsible for $700 of the Vaio P’s price tag. The full Windows 7 Professional OS is a welcome change from Windows XP—or worse, Windows 7 Starter.
The Vaio P’s eight-inch screen offers an eye-watering 1600x768 resolution. This is the first time we’ve ever seen a screen that was too sharp; reading text on it for more than a few minutes hurt our eyes.
It’s no secret that Intel’s Atom chips are a bit on the slow side. While we certainly like the battery efficiency, a bit more power would be great. It appears Intel is willing to appease us, and the announcement may come on Monday. Intel is expected to introduce the Pine Trail based Atom N470, which will be nearly the same as the N450, but clocked at 1.83GHz instead of 1.66GHz. We also heard a while back that the N470 netbooks would be allowed double the memory of the N450 units. We'll have to wait until Monday to see if that's still the case. It’s not a lot, but with Atom right at the edge of usability, every little bit helps.
Atom chips have been in high demand ever since netbooks took the PC market by storm. Atom offers lower power consumption than the previous low-power solution, the Core 2 ULV, but lags behind in processing power because of it. The N450 was released late last year, and quickly found its way into consumer products. Intel expects an equally speedy adoption of the N470. No word on if you will pay much of a premium for the new Pine Trail chip.