The spigot is barely open, yet already the early trickle of netbooks is triggering one of the livelier debates the industry has seen this year.
Today, barely a decade after the first $750 PC went on sale, about half of all PCs sell for less than that.
That was a tough time to survive. But those cheap, sluggish MediaGX PCs enticed a whole new layer of consumers into the PC market, primarily in the United States, Western Europe and other mature markets. And a few years later, as corporate buyers sat on the sidelines digesting their Y2K purchases and fretting about the economy, these consumers walked back into the store to buy new systems.
Netbooks will be attractive to some mature-market buyers—not as a ticket into the PC market, of course, but as companion PCs as we move to multiple-PCs-per-person computing models. Their low price, diminutive form factor and impressive battery life will make netbooks appealing for the job.
In the emerging regions, netbooks will play a more MediaGX-like role: Their low price will make the Internet and introductory computing available to the next layer of potential buyers.
Is there a danger then, that Atom-based netbooks might entice some buyers who would otherwise spend more on an entry-level notebook? Absolutely.
hat might cause some pain in the short term. But if the MediaGX is any indication, there's no need to worry.
Sooner or later, they'll be back for more.