No Windows, No Atom The new generation of netbooks, Netbook 2.0, will eschew Microsoft’s Windows and Intel’s Atom and instead run on ARM processors and Linux operating systems. Google’s Android, the new open platform operating system for smartphones, is a possibility too. ARM processors are used in almost 90% of mobile phones and naturally sip even less power than Intel’s Atom. According to ARM there could be up to 10 ARM-based netbooks debuting this year. Microsoft will need to sit out since Windows cannot be run on ARM processors at the moment*.
The Price is Right Netbook 2.0 prices could be in the low $200 range. With full-blown notebook PCs with powerful CPUs and graphics priced below $500 the race is on. Netbooks are generally cheaper than full-sized notebook PCs but even if prices differences shrink, one of the advantages of a netbook is that it is eminently more portable than a full-sized notebook PC.
ARMed NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Freescale Semiconductor have all designed ARM processors that can be used for netbooks. They all want a piece of the fast-growing netbook market that is currently dominated by Intel and its Atom processor. A total of 11.7 million netbooks were sold in 2008 and this year that number is expected to double. Analysts are forecasting ARM-based netbooks to capture 15% of the overall netbook market next year. Look for major announcements by Acer and/or Asus, the front leaders in the netbook space, at the Computex exposition held in Taiwan in June.
Already There Wistron showcased a ARM-based netbook at this year’s CTIA conference. The PBook is powered by Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon processor and has a design remiscent of Sony’s VAIO P ultrawide netbook. The PBook sported a Linux operating system but with easy-to-use icons. Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile will be supported too. *I guess Microsoft isn’t completely out of the Netbook 2.0 market. Wistron expects to have the PBook in stores before October of this year. You can find pictures of the PBook at Netbook Choice.
There’s a lot of big players involved in making sure that Netbook 2.0 happens, without the help of Microsoft or Intel. I am excited to see a major force developing that will give the Windows and Atom duo some competition.