The Christian Science Monitor is featuring a piece on netbooks and the drastically decreased cost of bringing computing to students (and adults) in both mature and developing markets. According to Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research,
They represent the idea of the "ubiquitous computer – the computer that you can have with you at all times," he says. These micro-PCs are more likely to eat into laptop sales than threaten even-smaller hand-held devices, phones with extra features such as Web-browsing, Mr. Gartenberg says.
The market, arguably created by the One Laptop Per Child organization, was originally directed towards students. Now, as the article points out, the value of these netbooks is apparent in the classroom, but also in the ability to fit a minilaptop in a purse or to provide households with second or third computers.
Nicholas Negroponte, founder of OLPC, has been under fire recently from many fronts. However,
OLPC is a humanitarian effort, not a business, Negroponte says. He likens the OLPC to the World Food Program, which does not try to compete with McDonald's. "I don't want to compete with anyone," he says.
Too late, Nick. Intel, Asus, and HP all have competitors on the market with many more to follow. As Paul Otellini noted recently,
"I really think the unknown dynamic is what happens when these $200 to $300 netbooks are unleashed in India and China and Indonesia...And we don't [know]. There is no model for that at this point in time because you are dealing with something that's never existed before."
Clearly, however, this market is growing rapidly. So rapidly, in fact, that Intel is ramping up production of its Atom processors to avoid shortfalls when companies begin shipping Atom-based netbooks and MIDs in the coming months.
Interestingly, the article concludes with a discussion of thin clients and the role they play in creating a ubiquitous computing model, especially in schools. These so-called dumb terminals have a lot of value to educational institutions, many of which are looking for energy-efficient, cost-effective ways to bring computing to as many students as possible.