Simplification is an essential attribute when it comes to determining consumer adoption of an ICT device or service.
Consumers certainly are more likely to take to devices and services that are simpler to use and tend to prefer form factors that are easy to handle.
Another essential attribute is freedom from wires. The historically significant success of mobile phones over landline phones and those of notebooks over desktop PCs are live testimonies.
Consumers are happy to pay a premium for devices that free them from the shackles of a fixed workspace. In fact, I would say, that freedom is worth more than the money one pays for the device.
The raging success of iPad globally can be seen in the light of the twin attributes of simplification and freedom, which have redefined the tablet. There is no doubt that the device will receive its due share of consumers’ wallet when it officially hits India’s shores.
Much water, however, is expected to have flown by then, given that the consumer ICT market space has been aggressively dynamic of late. Not just vendors, but also various device groups – the smartphones, netbooks and the upcoming tablets – will be competing with each other, undergoing continuous enhancements.
There has been a rapid evolution of smartphones in terms of their feature sets and processing power, in the backdrop of a potential tablet wave.
Given this, I find it somewhat surprising that the netbook device category has not seen evolution of a comparable scale, even though it will perhaps be most impacted by the advent and likely growth of the tablet PC segment.
Given that the mainstream notebooks’ processing capabilities have risen significantly with the arrival of the i-series Intel processors, one would have expected that the netbooks would also get meatier, without their ultra-portability getting compromised.
That has not happened, though, and netbooks, which someone had cleverly, and somewhat accurately, called ‘recession-notebooks’, now face the risk of losing appeal in a phase of economic recovery.
There have been a few positive developments, no doubt. For instance, Acer announced last week an Aspire 532h netbook with built-in support for Reliance Netconnect Broadband Plus service.
This will obviate the need for users to plug in a USB modem while accessing the Internet. Tata Teleservices, too, had earlier announced a wireless broadband-ready netbook.
This is surely a value-add that encompasses both the key attributes of simplification and freedom and adds a little bit of spark to the netbook landscape that has been otherwise somewhat dull, especially when compared to the smartphone segment.
Acer India’s CMO S. Rajendran is upbeat about the new netbook having received “encouraging” feedback from the channels. He says embedded connectivity gives the machine longer battery life.
That alone will not, however, be enough for netbooks as a category to survive. A lot more is needed to sustain consumer interest. More compute power could be a start since netbooks appear somewhat underserved by Intel’s Atom and equivalent processors.
About time for a new generation of netbooks?
(As published in Deccan Chronicle, August 19, 2010.)
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