Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gartner: Small notebooks to reach 50 million units

The OLPC and original ASUS Eee PC have really shaken up the market so says Gartner. In fact, Gartner is predicting that in 2008 5 million of these diminutive PCs will be sold.

As Gartner sees it, these devices, which were originally intended for the education market have found a welcome audience in the consumer space. In fact, they think that 70% of the device sales will be to consumers. And Gartner sees people buying these as secondary devices, too. Not primary machines. Sound familiar?

Of course, what’s so hilarious about all of this is that these devices were exactly in the ballpark of UMPCs, which haven’t had the sales volume many would have expected. The reason? Price, price, price. Seems that if you take a UMPC, remove the $50 (if that) digiitzer, and add a keyboard, then that’s good enough to drop the price by 1/2. Amazing, isn’t it?

What’s also funny in a not so funny way is that UMPCs were originally intended for consumers, although for some mystical reason (probably because of their high prices), marketing switched to high-end or IT customers.

So here we are, seeing these low end PCs potentially increase in sales by a magnitude in what Gartner predicts to be 4 years. Simply amazing.

Now Gartner is including a wide range of screen sizes here: Anything from 5 inches to 10 inches. This doesn’t include MIDs. I assume it includes the good ole UMPCs though.

What else sets these devices apart besides their low cost? Gartner predicts most of them will have diminutive power to match their diminutive sizes. Makes sense. The online summary doesn’t say it, but I think this includes limited onboard resources too.

So here’s what’s even more interesting: For some reason, Gartner thinks that these devices will be accepted by consumers because of their ease of use. I don’t get it. What will make them any easier to use than any other device?

In fact, because of their limited resources, Gartner believes the provided OS will either be Linux or XP. Yep, no Vista here. Too big and too slugish for these small devices I guess. Of course, there’s no way XP is going to be selling into 2012, so I’m not sure what Gartner is thinking here. I’m guessing they are just seeing the XP/Linux trend throughout 2008.

To me, I don’t see XP being any easier to use than anything else. So I think this whole ease to use argument is not going to pan out. Low price, small screen, small keyboard, limited resources does not make something easier to use.

Now the Linux people have an opportunity here to show how to create a good secondary device. But I’m not going to hold my breath. It’s not going to be about five quick icons on the screen–although that’s fine.

I challenge anyone here. I don’t think I’ve see one company hit the ease of use sweet spot for secondary devices. As someone who wrote ShareKMC, which is about two devices working together, I can’t say I really understand what this behavoir needs to be, but I know it’s not there. I’ll put it this way, even the iPhone, which is a great little device and fairly easy to use, it’s not a great companion device. (I should add a link to EverNote here as a product that’s might help out here, if only it shipped with most of the devices.) My guess is ease of use isn’t going to be a shining feature of any of these devices, unless something changes on the software side. Crudely this would include a custom shell and maybe 4 to 5 really well tuned apps for the form factor. And NO, I’m not talking about an old fashioned media player with a 3D graphics shell. And to do it really well, I think there ought to be one or possibly two small tweaks to the hardware. I’m not going to go into details here, but I think anyone that really thinks about this stuff will see some really obvious things to do.

[Found via Gottabemobile]