The netbook and MID (mobile internet device) markets are all the rage these days, and Intel is betting big on these markets with its Atom processor line. However, Intel doesn’t stop there – the company is even buying wireless networks. According to Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini, it’s all part of bringing the Internet to new places and people.
Otellini told the Associated Press that he isn’t afraid that these small netbooks are going to cannibalise sales of bigger, more powerful notebooks. “If a higher-priced notebook isn’t substantially better and doesn’t offer more utility, shame on us,” he said, “If there’s cannibalization, I’d rather be the cannibal than someone else.”
Intel is also investing a lot of money in rolling out WiMax networks in the US and Japan. “You won’t see Intel per se becoming a network operator. That’s not our competency,” Otellini explained, “But as a means to enable hundreds of millions of high-performance mobile devices that access the Internet – both notebooks and smart phones – I think it’s a good investment for us.”
In the process, Intel is also looking beyond its regular software partner Microsoft, opting to support Linux on these small devices, due to it being a cheaper and less resource-hungry alternative to Windows Vista. In addition, it will be around for a while, which Windows XP won’t be. “Vista has a larger memory footprint, a larger graphics requirement and a higher price point. This is all about low-cost computing,” Otellini said, “I see much of the activity in Mobile Internet Devices, sort of the evolution of the handset, being centered around Linux.”
From my own subjective experience, I can say that the netbook and MID markets – but the netbook market in particular – is roughly in the same position that the Macintosh was in about 3-4 years ago (at least, here in The Netherlands). Back then, I was one of only a very few Macintosh owners at my university, and the iBook was a head turner. People wanted to look at it, touch it, play with it, for the simple reason that it was different from what they were used to (and usually prettier, too). These days, Macs are abound, and nobody blinks twice at seeing a MacBook. However, as soon as I take out my small netbook, heads turn, people want to play with it, touch it. It’s the iBook all over again.
They’re different. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years from now, the netbook market will be about the same size as the portable Mac market is now.