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.