The Emperor's new clothes
Essentially, with the VSL you are sacrificing spec for portability. This is a valid niche as, previously, if you wanted a very portable laptop, you would pay top dollar for a ‘thin and light’ system that was fully specced but had been specially engineered to fit inside a smaller chassis, usually with a 12 inch screen. The market for people who prioritise portability but don’t have much cash was not being serviced. Now it is.
That’s fine, but remember: the thing that really got people excited about the first Eee PCs was the price and the novelty of a new form factor. They’ve gone from being £200 and 7 inches to up to £400 and 10 inches and have deviated significantly from what made them popular initially. Once this sinks in with consumers, there's a danger they will smell a rat.
The story of The Emperor’s New Clothes is a parable of the power of suggestion that should be chapter one of any marketing textbook. In it, the Emperor is convinced by conmen that they have made him clothes out of invisible thread. He is seduced by this notion until a child shouts out that he’s not wearing any clothes."Hold on a minute, I’m paying £400 for an under specced laptop that I still have to carry in a bag"
For the time being at least, the novelty and perception of greater mobility is keeping the VSL market booming. But you have to wonder how long it will be before people start saying: "Hold on a minute, I’m paying £400 for an under specced laptop that I still have to carry in a bag – maybe the Emperor’s new clothes aren't so great after all." A look at a recent survey carried out by HEXUS.lifestyle on this very topic would seem to imply that they already are.
With so many new and varied types of VSL coming out this summer, in time for the back-to-school and Christmas seasons, we’re likely to still see significant growth in this sector until the end of the year. By January 2009, however, the novelty might very well have worn off and, unless prices revert to the £200 level we may find ourselves looking back at the 2008 Year of the VSL as a temporary aberration.
What do you think? Will the novelty wear off? Are VSLs here to stay? Do you think they represent value for money compared to full-size notebooks? Let us know in the HEXUS.community.