As hardware junkies, we have little trouble justifying our desire for netbooks. Microsoft on the other hand, is having a huge problem trying to figure out how to cash in on the craze.According to new research conducted by Bloomberg, Microsoft’s historic stock plunge of over 40 percent this year alone can be tied in part to the success of netbooks. These sub $500 PC’s are by far the fastest growing segment in the computing industry. And unfortunately for Microsoft, many of these devices don’t ship with Windows.
Internally, Microsoft estimates that around 70 percent of netbooks run at least some version of Windows. This is a far cry from the over 90 percent market penetration they enjoy in the notebook and desktop segments. Additionally, since the vast majority of netbooks run older versions of Windows, margins are much thinner. The OEM licensing fee of $40/$50 for Windows XP is a drop in the bucket when you compare it to the $100 or more they expect for Vista. Bridging the revenue gap isn’t as easy as raising the price for XP either. Especially when you consider that it only costs around $5 to deploy a version of Linux. The Microsoft tax is widely debated by netbook manufacturers who are scrambling to keep sticker prices low. As a result, Microsoft has cut projections for Windows growth in Q4 to as little as 2 percent. Earlier in the year they were estimating growth of around 9 to 10 percent.
While Microsoft might suffer in the short term, it appears the long term strategy is to address netbooks with the upcoming release of Windows 7. During PDC last week, Steven Sinofsky showed off a $399 netbook running the new OS.And according to Senior Vice President Jon DeVaan, “People will be pleasantly surprised and excited by how Windows 7 runs on low-cost machines”.The over arching question here is if Linux will gain any long term momentum as a result of its new found market penetration. I guess only time will tell.
So would you rather a faster netbook running Linux, or a slightly slower machine with Windows?
A small group of Maximum PC readers (and editors) tend to glaze over at the mere mention of the Eee PC. For those of you that fall into this category, I’ll do my best to keep it interesting and you’ll be glad to know, this isn’t an ordinary netbook announcement. The now household name that spawned a generation of inexpensive PC’s have unveiled a new form factor that brings the Eee product line closer to being a desktop solution than ever before. First impressions of the product are obvious, it is clearly intended to appeal to the budget conscious crowd who can’t afford an iMac, or simply don’t care to pay the Apple tax. Asus isn’t the first to take on the iMac, but the Eee brand name, and touch screen interface gives it an interesting advantage over its competitors.
The Eee Top will come in two variations, the ET1602 and the ET1603. Both models feature a 15.6” touch screen display, a 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU, 1GB of Ram, and a 160GB Hard Drive. Other less critical features include 802.11n networking as well as a built in card reader and web cam. The two models are almost completely identical with the one exception being the ET1603’s inclusion of the ATI Mobility Radeon HD3450 for graphics. The ET1602 by comparison will only sport Intel integrated. No pricing has yet been announced for either model, and both systems will feature Windows XP Home with a custom touch screen GUI.
So, is this the form factor of Eee PC you were waiting for?
While the solid state drive market might seem like it’s sprawling, Seagate politely disagrees… for now. The world’s largest hard drive maker is planning to get into the SSD game in mid-2009, when there will be more possibilities to make money.
Seagate’s CEO Bill Watkins recently said in an interview, “The problem is you can't make money out of it [mobile flash memory]… I don't need to get into a market I can't make money out of. I can get into that market any time - all I have to do is show up with a product and price it. The problem is, I can't show up with a product that's any better or significantly better than what they're getting now so I have to match their price.” And, according to Watkins both Micron and Samsung (big names in the current SSD industry) are selling at a loss. “To do the product is not a big deal but to make money at it - it's important to us.”
Aside from mentioning Seagate’s will to do well financially in the flash market, some plans were finally outlined by Watkins as to just how they’ll break onto the scene. They plan to do so with a “combo” drive. The Seagate drive will feature both single layer chips and multilayer chips of flash memory. The combination of these two technologies will offset the pros and cons of each, providing both a reliable and reasonably priced drive.
If the Phantom Lapboard sounds familiar, it's because we covered the promising product earlier this year. After spending some hands-on time with the peripheral, it was clear Phantom had a winning design on its hands, provided the company could address the dropout issues with the mouse and other annoyances associated with the rodent. Whether or not the final version represented an improvement over the unit we played with was supposed to have been answered back in June when it was scheduled to be available in limited quantities.
June has come and gone, but the Lapboard is nowhere to be seen. Has it dropped off the face of the earth to become vaporware just as the Phantom Console did over two years ago? Not yet, and maybe not ever. Unlike the Phantom Console, which left Phantom's website as if it never existed, the company is still talking about the Lapboard. In a recent blog post, Phantom Development Consultant John Landino says Phantom has come up with inventory funding and paid for its first shipment of Lapboards, which the company hopes to start shipping in its yet-to-be-opened game store before the end of the year.
It's hard to argue with anyone who might be skeptical about this latest update, but remember that the Optimus Maximus was once well on its way to becoming vaporware before it started shipping.
For some time now, word on web has been that Intel will launch its first Core i7 processors on November 17, and according to eWeek.com, that word is now official. The news site reports that the launch will take place during an event in San Francisco.
While Intel will target high end desktops and gamers with its first set of Core i7 chips, eWeek says the chip maker will zone in on business buyers and enterprises shortly after with new processors designed for workstations and dual-core server systems. These should be available by the end of 2008, followed by Core i7 parts designed for corporate clients and notebooks in 2009.
Also in 2009, we'll start to see processors sporting integrated graphics on the silicon die appear in desktop systems.
"Some of these new processors will have integrated graphics built into the processor and our partners will see this as an efficient use of the processors socket and the memory for both compute power and graphics," Intel VP Steve Smith said.
Anyone planning a Core i7 build in time for the holidays? Hit the jump and tell us about it.
Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have created a method to calculate how different degrees of strain affect electronic structures in silicon. Sound confusing? Well, truthfully it is, but it could soon bring you new CPUs that produce much less heat and use less power.
Today’s strained silicon is very limited. This is mostly caused by the techniques that are in place to create it, and the physics of strain (which still haven’t been fully mapped out). But, thanks to a team of dedicated researchers led by Max Lagally, the Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at UW-M, this is all about to change.
The creation process, which previously didn’t always provide a uniform stretch of the silicon across the surface of the chip, has been drastically changed thanks to the research of Legally’s team. Having mapped out the effects of strain on electric structures in silicon, they finally understand why there are drastic increases and decreases in electron mobility from sheet to sheet. This will allow them a more uniform creation process that will produce more predictable results.
To produce their samples they stretched out films of silicon for research. “Imagine [attaching] a ring and a hook to all four corners [of a piece of thin film silicon] and pulling equally on all four corners like a trampoline,” said Legally, “it stretches out like that.”
Should this research come full circle, there’s no doubt that we’ll all reap the rewards.
According to Chinese researchers, sheets made of carbon nanotubes will act like a loudspeaker when charged with a varying electric current. This discovery could lead to a new era of cheap, flat speakers.
Shoushan Fan of the Tsinghua University in Beijing and his team have been working alongside a team of researchers at Beijing Normal University (a name that truly inspires confidence), to create the first speaker sheet by aligning numerous 10-nanometer-diameter carbon nanotubes. When an audio frequency current was sent through the sheet they found that it acted as a loudspeaker. While the reaction causes the sheet to heat up to temperatures of 80°C, it’s expected that consumer use will only cause the sheet to rise slightly above room temperature.
According to Kaili Jiang, a member of Fan’s team, the speakers have a great deal of potential in them for uses that you wouldn’t see from a conventional speaker. The team has found that the flexible sheets can be stretched until they become transparent. They could then be attached to the front of an LCD screen to replace standard speakers. They even mentioned the possibility of singing and speaking jackets.
If solid state drives (SSDs) continue to march into the mainstream market, 2008 might very well one day be looked at as the start of the SSD era. But for that to happen, the performance numbers have to improve and users have to be convinced that the technology can be reliable on a long-term basis. Performance, which is supposed to SSD's strong point, has come under fire amid real-world benchmark comparisons, and as far as SanDisk is concerned, Vista is to blame.
Taking matters into its own hands, SanDisk has developed a new file system, ExtremeFFS, which the company claims has the potential to increase write performance by up to 100 times in SSDs over existing systems.
"To maximize random write performance, SanDisk developed the ExtremeFFS flash file management system," the company wrote in a press release. "This operates on a page-based algorithm, which means there is no fixed coupling between physical and logical location. When a sector of data is written, the SSD puts it where it is most convenient and efficient. The result is an improvement in random write performance – by up to 100 times – as well as in overall endurance."
ExtremeFFS allows NAND channels to work independently of each other, so while some might be reading data, others can be simultaneously writing. The technology also purports to "learn" user patterns and eventually localize data, which sounds a lot like advanced defragging routines. Admittedly, SanDisk senior VP and GM Rich Heye's concedes that it might not make a difference in benchmarks, but believes "it is the right thing to do for end-users."
In related news, SanDisk has also come up with a performance metric it is calling vRPM, or virtual RPM. The metric has been designed to let users know how fast a typical hard drive would need to spin to match the performance of an SSD, which would also allow for a performance comparison between SSDs.
When most computer users think of folding at home, the image that comes to mind is that of folding proteins in hopes of ultimately coming up with a cure for common diseases. But the term is about to become literal with Asus' announcement of its Vento TA-F foldable chassis.
The main benefit of a collapsible chassis lies in its portability. According to Asus, with a fully folded dimension of 434 x 87 x 434 mm, vendors can cut back on transportation costs by upwards of 30 percent. Presumably this would translate into reduced costs for the end users who often find themselves paying anywhere from $15 to $25 or more to have a case shipped. But are there any other benefits?
"This [space saving design] also allows DIY enthusiasts to carry the chassis back home or to the office without having to contend with the conventional bulk of a normal chassis," Asus explains in its press release. "Once the user arrives back home or at the office, the TA-F Series can be expanded quickly to use and also be kept away by simply folding it flat."
To do so would require removing installed components and then reinstalling, rinse and repeat. To its credit, the TA-F boasts a tools-free setup to help streamline the process, but we can't imagine system builders opting to tear down their system in order to save some cargo space.
What are your thoughts on a foldable chassis? Hit the jump and let us know.
While Windows 7's basic "look" is a refined version of Windows Vista, Windows 7 is much more than "Vista, Take 2." One of the most significant new features coming in Windows 7 is Device Stage, and Device Stage is one of the major themes of this week's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC).
What is Device Stage?
Device Stage, for the first time, looks at a device as a single entity rather than as a collection of different components. As ArsTechnica describes Device Stage:
Attaching a device in current versions of Windows gives sometimes unpredictable results. A multi-function printer/scanner/fax, for instance, might show up as several different things within Windows: a printer, scanner, removable disk, and some vendor supplied management suite...The "Device Stage" feature is designed to alleviate some of these problems by treating devices as distinct "things" with multiple abilities.
To learn more about Device Stage, and to find out what hardware vendors think about this new feature, join us after the jump.