Chips transform mar­ket

The days of low-cost, low­pow­ered lap­tops are num­bered, writes Jen­nifer DudleyNicholson

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gadgets -

THEY are just three years old but net­books are on the en­dan­gered list. The rea­son for their threat­ened sta­tus, how­ever, might not be what you suspect.

Yes, tablets are chal­leng­ing net­books, and the shrink­ing price of full-sized note­books are a threat, but there’s an­other fac­tor at play. Net­books are start­ing to re­ceive trans­for­ma­tional hard­ware up­grades.

New com­puter chips will soon be added to net­books, in­clud­ing AMD’s new Fu­sion C-Se­ries pro­ces­sors de­signed for use in net­books.

The chips fea­ture mul­ti­ple cores for added speed, built-in graph­ics pro­cess­ing for high­def­i­ni­tion video, and de­liver longer bat­tery life.

AMD world­wide prod­uct mar­ket­ing vice-pres­i­dent Les­lie Sobon says the new gen­er­a­tion of pro­ces­sors will rev­o­lu­tionise net­books, which have earned a bad rep­u­ta­tion.

‘‘ The rea­son the in­dus­try called it a net­book was be­cause it couldn’t do a lot,’’ she says. ‘‘ And they had to cre­ate a new name for that. The ex­pe­ri­ence of us­ing a net­book has been poor.’’

But Sobon, who launched AMD’s Fu­sion chips in Syd­ney, says pow­er­ful chips will transform the make-up and rep­u­ta­tion of net­books.

New mod­els will han­dle me­dia ca­pa­bly, will fea­ture ‘‘ up to 12 hours of bat­tery life’’ and will work at a faster pace, she says.

The trans­for­ma­tion is set to be so dra­matic, AMD will re­train re­tail­ers so con­sumers are not turned off by 10-inch PCs.

‘‘ We may need a new name for net­books,’’ she says. ‘‘ I’m not sure what that will be.’’ New-gen­er­a­tion net­books are ex­pected to ar­rive in stores soon from mak­ers in­clud­ing Toshiba, Dell, Sony and ASUS.

But some com­pa­nies are not as bullish about the fu­ture of net­books. Af­ter an­nounc­ing five tablets for the com­ing year, Acer’s Tai­wan sales man­ager Lu Bing-hsian told re­porters the slate com­put­ers were ‘‘ aimed at phas­ing out net­books’’ as that was ‘‘ the direc­tion of the mar­ket’’.

IDC in­fra­struc­ture se­nior an­a­lyst Trevor Clarke says net­books have cer­tainly ‘‘ dropped off the hype radar in re­cent times’’, but are still sell­ing well in Aus­tralia.

Con­sumers and schools con­tinue to buy the small com­put­ers, which sell for $500 or less, Mr Clarke says, though sales fig­ures are ‘‘ flat’’. The new chips may help main­tain cur­rent sales.

‘‘ It re­ally is a great time to be a con­sumer if you are look­ing to pur­chase a com­puter.’’

Lap ’em up: now is a great time to buy a com­puter.

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