The netbook may not be dead yet: Intel talks $200-$300 touch-enabled Bay Trail laptops

The netbook may not be dead yet: Intel talks $200-$300 touch-enabled Bay Trail laptops

Summary: During its Q1 earnings call, Intel execs discussed thin notebooks using the forthcoming Atom platform being available by the holiday season at a bargain price.

TOPICS: Intel, Laptops

Don't bury the netbook yet. That seemed to be the message Intel delivered during its first quarter earnings call, when CEO Paul Otellini and CFO Stacy Smith talked up the forthcoming Bay Trail Atom platform as the core of a series of cheap, touch-enabled laptops.

Bay Trail, the Atom system-on-a-chip that's due later this year, has been viewed as the next-generation Intel architecture for tablet PCs, but the company appears to have other designs for the SoC as well. During the earnings call (transcribed by Seeking Alpha), Smith stated the following:

[B]ecause of Bay Trail coming into the marketplace, you’ll see touch-enabled thin notebooks with really good performance that are hitting kind of $300 price points.

Otellini followed up with this:

If you look at touch-enabled Intel based notebooks that are ultrathin and light using non-core processors, those prices are going to be down to as low as $200 probably. 

Given the widespread belief that the netbook — just the type of cheap, thin laptop Otellini is describing — is on the way out, this would seem to fly in the face of market trends. Then again, the system Intel is talking about may not be your father's netbook. Bay Trail is based on the 22nm manufacturing process, which means lower power consumption and improved battery life. It also will double the number of processing cores from two to four and include the Intel HD 4000 graphics in current Ivy Bridge processors to improve performance. (See more details here.)

Of course, these are limited statements that tell us little about Intel's plans. Still, they are provocative, given the pricing issues that are dogging the PC industry and Intel's own Ultrabook platform. Are $200 to $300 laptops with more power than a netbook realistic for the holiday season? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section below.

[Seeking Alpha via Engadget. Image:]

Topics: Intel, Laptops

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  • Paradise for cheapskates = doom for manufacturers

    This is another step in the wrong direction. Permanently lowering the average price level of a product group finally leads to the death of all participants.
    Consumers accustomed to $300 netbooks will become more and more reluctant to spend, say $600 for a slightly better device. "Good enough" is what has become the slogan.
    Lower price levels have to be compensated by higher sales volume. No way. Guess it's time to say good-by to not only Dell but a lot more PC vendors.
    • I see it a bit differently

      Competition is driving prices down while also pushing innovation and features up.

      The current atom cpu has some limitations: Processing power, screen resolution (1366x768), max memory of 2gb, usb 2.0 and graphics power on par with tablets.

      Baytrail looks to solve all of those while keeping extremely long battery life, passive fanless cooling in thin and light form factors. These $300 touch enabled netbooks will not be heavy duty gaming machines, but they will certainly be more capable than any generation of netbook and perhaps as good or better than many current generation laptops.

      This is exactly what the PC industry needs. An entry level device that isn't so crippled that most consider it unusable. OEMs will need to clearly define what the benefits of the $600+ devices really offer in order to make them more appealing. Putting the User Experience Index somewhere for customers to see might be a good idea, especially if software developers started using those numbers for recommendations.

      People understand what a netbook and an ultrabook is. There needs to be more clear catagories for devices to fit into so people shopping can better filter through the insane amounts of devices the OEMs throw out.
    • Well, right now, I can buy a Windows 8, 15" notebook ...

      ... with 4GB of RAM and a 320GB HDD, in a plastic case with a one-year warranty for $350 or I can buy a $650 notebook with a faster processor in a metal case.

      Now, the less expensive notebook will not take the same beating but if I a careful with it, and its meets my needs, if I get two years out of it before it breaks, then the cost of a replacement will be less than the cost of a repair and the new machine will be twice as fast as the old one for the same $350.

      So, the net cost to me is $50 and if the life of the $650 computer is four years, then I will have enjoyed twice as much computing power for two of the four years.

      You are correct that as profit margins shrink, a lot of OEMs go under. That is why the most successful OEMs sell high-end, super-robust computers with long warranties to enterprise customers (because lost productivity means lost money) so they can subsidize the commodity consumer notebook at cut-throat prices.

      In this scenario, the small OEM loses out.
      M Wagner
  • Doom for Chrome books

    • What?

      I think these have to be chromebooks, not Windows 8 PCs. If the OEMs could make money selling Windows 8 netbooks, they'd already be doing it with Atom. Windows 8 already runs on cheap chips, it's the software cost that's the issue for OEMs.
      • When PCs were $500 and netbooks were $350, OEMs ...

        ... were making money off of netbooks. Now full PC's are available for $350 and netbooks are $200. At $200, a netbook is still a fully-functional version of Windows 7/8 but it cannot compete with the portability of an Android tablet. (At least not in its present form.)

        Tablets run from under $200 (Kindle Fire) to $499 (iPad, Surface RT) to $999 (iPad, Surface Pro).

        Netbooks run from $200 to $700.

        Notebooks run from $300 to $1,000+

        Ultrabooks run from $1,000 and up (MacBook Air, Chromebook Pixel, et.)

        For all intents and purposes, a netbook is a low-end, small-screen Windows PC competing directly with an Android tablet.

        In the last few years, we have seen huge advancements in hardware which have brought on a convergence of capabilities for devices at all price-points. Not long ago, tablets were underpowered. Today, by any measure, the Surface Pro is a powerful device but battery-life remains a major issue.

        Still advances are coming quickly.

        There are now products at price-points from $200 to $1000+ with operating systems ranging from Android (Gingerbread, JellyBean) to iOS to ChromeOS to Windows to MacOSX.

        In all this, does the netbook have much of a long-term future? I don't think so.

        I think it is more likely that the netbook will morph into a low-end tablet running Windows 8. I think that the Surface RT will compete head-to-head with the iPad, though I think it is possible that the Surface may actually benefit from these advances so that the Surface RT might be replaced (or augmented) by a Surface 8, with the Surface Pro becoming the Surface 8 Pro.

        If the Surface line can provide everything offered by the iPad line but with legacy capabilities of Windows 8, it could offer the user the best of all possible worlds. The PC/netbook market and the ultrabook market could then be left to traditional Widows OEMs.

        Sounds about perfect to me.
        M Wagner
    • Maybe. But it's doubtful either will surive

      many people don't have very fond memories of the term "netbook".

      Using that term isn't going to help anything sell, no matter the price.
      • The same can be said for the Atom brand

        Intel would be wise to change the name of that CPU and OEMs should avoid the Netbook brand as well.
  • Here's hoping

    I am hoping to see $200 Windows 8 tablets, even in the 7-8 inch mark, would be an interesting prospect assuming the OEMs manage to pull it off. I'm willing to bet that for one reason or another they'll start at $300, or at the minimum $250.
    • 7-8" windows 8

      I don't think Windows 8 is even usable at those sizes. 11" was supposedly the 'perfect' size for a tablet, and even then touch office was unpopular. Getting smaller, you're losing all the benefits of having Windows. It would make sense as an xbox companion, maybe.

      Specifically, it would make sense with some kind of screen-casting, but to what end? If you want to screencast and use it with kbm, then just buy a laptop (and if you're likely to buy a Windows tablet you already have a Windows PC). If you want to screencast to a TV, you'll buy something with a bigger, more modern library of apps like iOS or Android or a premium gaming-only platform like Vita or 3ds.

      Considering that they aren't moving WP8 - their mobile platform with the most and best apps (and still trailing) - to the tablet size, they still haven't figured this out. Considering that Windows 8.1 doesn't have significant changes, this is another lost year for MS. And probably next year, too, based on xbox rumours.
      • Screens smaller than 11" require the Metro interface ...

        ... and a few simple instructions for each application. In order to have more complex applications, you need the familiar desktop, at lease 11", and a mouse to access complex options. This is the difference between a consumption devices and a productivity device.
        M Wagner
  • Google not MS

    These price points only make sense for Chromebooks. MS can't lower Windows pricing enough to accommodate touchscreen laptops at $300, that's why they created Windows RT.

    Coincidentally, the Chromebook Pixel has that form factor and appears to be one of Google's famous non-beta beta tests.

    I'm wondering though, if they really wanted to assure stockholders, why aren't they talking up Android devices? This seems so tone-deaf to bring up netbooks.
    • Why couldn't they?

      Remember what they did to Linux Netbooks? They're alright with lowering the price if it helps maintain their lead.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Linux had a strong lead in netbooks until Windows entered the picture.

        And most users decided that they preferred Windows on their netbook. In the end, there is no difference in cost for a vendor supported Linux box versus an identically equipped Windows box.

        In short, with Linux, the OS is free, with Windows, support is free. The consumer would prefer free support over free software any day.
        M Wagner
  • Look, the Surface has a 10.6 inch screen ...

    ... and, at 1366x768, it makes a perfectly usable platform. Windows 8 runs reasonable well on a 10.1 inch netbook from 2009 with 1GB of RAM.

    If Intel can put together a netbook at $200 to $300 price-point and running Windows 8, then yes, it has a future. Whether that future is a netbook form-factor or a tablet form-factor, the result is the same - and good news for all!
    M Wagner
  • I'd rather pay more for a quality netbook, than for a tablet.

    If I could get a netbook which was the 10.1" equivalent of a Chrome Pixel with a full-sized keyboard, but also full-blown Windows 7 Pro, I'd jump on it. Size does matter when traveling, and tablets just don't cut it. I need a lappy which is smaller, instead. My 8.9" Acer A0A 150 is just ideal, except for the cramped keyboard. When my desktop died, the Acer took its place, and the only problem I had was the need to keep switching out USB ports, as the thing only has three. Hooked up my monitor, my wireless keyboard and mouse (one USB port), my external DVDRW (another USB), my scanner (third USB), and I was good to go.

    That netbook was made in 2008. It has Atom. I could make decent HD videos on it, despite the 1 GB of Ram and XP Home, due to the external monitor's specs (was recording video onscreen).

    See the idea? A netbook if beefed up, is a great alternative to a desktop, and you can just unhook it for travel. So too a laptop, really; but people want bigger screens, and that makes even a laptop less portable.

    For my traveling money, netbooks are the way to go. Much easier to use and more sturdy, less accident-prone, than a tablet. I guess a lot of other folks feel the same way, for out of the thousands of devices I saw in airports and the hotel last week, there were only four tablets. Most were smartphones, but hundreds appeared to be ultrabooks or netbooks (really small, under 13", very thin and silvery or black, all quite new).
    • Well, that is kinda the catch. For the difference in price ...

      ... between 10" netbook and a 15" notebook, consumers would gladly pay for the much more usable 15" screen - let alone the faster processor and the larger amount of RAM.
      M Wagner
    • I'm with you.

      My old N280 netbook did what I wanted just fine. My current C-60 based AO522 is more powerful than I really need, on the go. At home where I use my desktop as a primary computer, I hook up my netbook to a USB TV tuner and external monitor and use it as a HTPC. I carry my netbook around like others carry a rolled-up magazine or newspaper. I'd upgrade my AO522 for better battery life, but I don't want a laptop with a screen over 10" - too bulky. I'm not interested in tablets, I want both an integrated keyboard and x86 compatibility. If they don't come out with new netbooks in the future, this AO522 will likely be the last laptop I buy for a very long time.
  • Netbooks are still excellent for many things

    I own a netbook, a proper laptop and a tablet.

    Even though its fairly old now, and still stuck on XP, the netbook is still actually a delight to use and far more useful than the tablet if you need to get some real work done. I still think of my tablet as a toy, essentially. Netbook's have not had their day.