Friday, April 2, 2010

More Convergence Drives More Divergence in PC Industry

Jay McBain, Director of Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
2010 will be the year where online communications, entertainment and information converge to continue creating new, divergent types of mobile PC devices. 2008 was the year of the netbook, which impacted the industry in a big way by driving down prices and introducing the concept of “good enough” computing. Since its debut two years ago, the netbook category has expanded considerably with new sizes, features and technologies. If you remember, when netbooks first entered the market, they featured 8 and 9 inch screens. Today’s sweet spot is slightly larger at 10.6 inches, and we even see some 12 inch models being offered.
In 2009, all in one desktops and nettops took off following the success of netbooks. 2010 will bring even further expansion in these categories by incorporating technologies like multitouch, tablet functionality and enhanced graphics and processing performance. If netbooks and nettops weren’t enough, 2010 will bring even more devices to keep you connected and computing with the advent of smartbooks.
Smartbooks take the best of smartphones and netbooks to create a completely new device and category. If you’re looking for all day battery life and virtually continual wireless connectivity in a really thin and light package, a smartbook may be for you. While targeted at consumers primarily, this always on, always connected device may be a good fit for business users who need access to the Internet with a full browser and keyboard experience. With more and more devices being introduced to the market, more choice brings freedom, but it can also lead to indecision. That’s why it’s more important than ever before for VARs to understand the new PC technologies and to help their customers evaluate which PCs are right for their business.
These new trends and devices highlight an interesting phenomena happening in the industry right now. New and improved technologies are driving convergence for entertainment and online activities to handheld and small, portable PC devices. This convergence is magnified by the rise of cloud computing. Now you can check your email, instant message, download movies and music and stream live video on your mobile device choose whether to store your data on your PC or in the cloud.
At the same time as this convergence, the PC industry is diverging by creating new devices and form factors to serve an audience that increasingly wants customized PC technology to suit their specific purposes. For example, someone may use a smartbook as their personal connectivity device for entertainment, a laptop for work and a smartphone for voice communication throughout the day. Some of the new technologies driving convergence of entertainment and communications to mobile devices have largely centered on wireless connectivity with WiFi, 3G and WiMAX. Other technologies like ARM-based processors have enabled all-day battery life for devices like smartbooks. You’ll likely see this transfer into other PC devices in 2010. While Microsoft Windows 7 predominates traditional PCs and netbooks, operating systems on devices like smartbooks resemble smartphones where customer interfaces are layered over Linux.
While there are more technologies driving more choices than ever before, users must still choose which features are most important to them given their primary usage. Ultimately, the purpose behind a device, its design/ease of use and price will dictate its success. Will we continue to see expanded offerings with new devices or will consolidation happen? I’m confident the answer is a resounding “yes” for netbooks long term. Time will tell the next generation of mobility products are introduced.