Conventional laptops and mobile phones remain worlds apart when it comes to cost, size and design metrics. Trends revealed in recent Portelligent teardowns of netbooks from Asustek and Dell, however, show a narrowing of the breach between that class of mini-notebook PCs and recent smart phones from Apple and HTC.
The gap has closed along a number of system cost and complexity vectors, including hardware bill-of-materials (BOM) cost, IC component count and IC die area. Nevertheless, for now, persistent differences in power consumption, form factor and software are keeping the two device classes out of direct competition with each other.
The Asustek Eee PC 2G was the first Intel architecture-based portable personal computer analyzed by Portelligent that demonstrated a total hardware BOM cost of less than $200--previously only true of cellular phones.
|Netbooks like Asustek's (center) still differ in form factor and user expectations from smart phones like this HTC-built model.|
By making use of a low-cost Centrino chip set from Intel; replacing the hard drive with 2 Gbytes of NAND memory; and providing a 7-inch, 800 x 480 resolution display, Asustek achieved a cost to manufacture that enabled a retail price point below $400. On the heels of Asustek's success with the Eee PC, most of the major PC manufacturers have launched their own netbook PC models built around Intel's Atom chip set.
Netbook PCs are miniature versions of notebooks that keep cost to a minimum. Contributing to the declining cost trends observed in netbook PCs, the nonmemory IC component count and die area seen in the Asustek Eee PC are now below those observed in ultrahigh-end smart phones, and well below the figures seen in notebook PCs.
Smart phones are headed in the opposite direction: The expanding capabilities of ultrahigh-end handsets are driving the devices' cost to manufacture above $150 and often closer to $200, despite reductions in component costs.