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Are sub-notebooks just a fad?

by Scott Bicheno on 25 July 2008, 17:08

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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.



HEXUS Forums :: 40 Comments

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I dont think these things will vanish from the market, they offer too much to people who travel a lot like students and businessmen who genuinely don't need the speed and storage of their full sized laptop at all times. The prices need to cme down quite a bit.. 170-300 max i reckon but im sure that will happen with time.
I think the article gets straight to the heart of the matter, at £200 these are a gimmicky impulse spend, at £400 they're sub-par notebooks.

Ultimately for the money, what you really want is something akin to what you'd get from the iPhone or other MDA. Play music, watch some videos, surf websites and read eBooks. If the manufacturers focussed on bringing those features rather than trying to make a PC as small as possible, then they'd really see the sales roll in.
Doubt it, as for 2 of those tasks an iPhone or MDA is better suited, smaller and has better battery life. And at the moment cheaper.

Fad? No. They have their space, but it'll turn into a niche one in my opinion.
As a secondary laptop I think they're superb, but I definitely wouldn't spend over £250 on one. I just bought an Acer One (Atom 1.6GHz / 1GB RAM / 120GB HDD) for just under £220, take it almost everywhere with me :p
this_is_gav
Doubt it, as for 2 of those tasks an iPhone or MDA is better suited, smaller and has better battery life. And at the moment cheaper.

Fad? No. They have their space, but it'll turn into a niche one in my opinion.

You may be right about the niche… i think it will be a fairly large niche as far as they go though.

I doubt the Iphone competes with them, browser is slightly limited, screen is pretty damn small and typing on one is a pain IMO. Iphones are for those who like nice looking reasonably fuctional devices, they are not versitile business or study friendly things in the long run.
MDA is a similar story to the iphoen however they are slightly more versitile with regards to typing and taking notes etc.

U say they are cheaper… not really tbh, they generally have to be bought on a contract and the overall cost is about the same maybe a bit less for quite a bit less speed. Yeah you get the calls and stuff but if you hunt around and bargain enough you can get contracts which cover hundreds of mins and texts for next to nothing nowerdays.

IMO what these sub notebooks are ideal for is having the functionality of a normal kyboard. Iphones PDAs MDAs etc DO NOT have the same typing capabilities. Yeah ok typing on those daft little shrunken Eee keyboards is a nightmare at first but once you get used to it you could touch type unlike a phone-computer. And im not speculating here… i have a HTC TYTN II yes its top for typing but i cant touch type, double the speed of a numpad but half the speed of a keyboard.