TECH NOUS Note to Self: Get Notebook

Ever since the emergence of the first industry standard notebook (laptop) computer in 1985, portable PCs have had slow but steady impact on the sales of desktop computers. Barely noticeable to begin with, in more recent times notebook PCs have been outselling desktop computers in the consumer sector. In 2006, for the first time, notebooks are expected to outsell desktops in the business market.
Traditionally desktop computers led the way in technology development, with portable computers constantly playing catch-up game.
Today the situation has almost been reversed, with new technology hitting the mobile platform first. Computer users must now seriously question their motives for buying desktop over portable.
All this was brought home to me at recent product launch hosted by Toshiba, where the company unveiled whole raft of business and retail models based on Intel’s new dual core platform, along with its latest Qosmio four-in-one entertainment unit (now with HD digital TV tuner) and digital audio players (gigabeat Flash and gigabeat X series).
As Mark Wittard, GM Australia and New Zealand for Toshiba ISD, points out, the price and technology gap has closed significantly between notebooks and desktops. In the United States, for example, entry level notebooks are now selling for as little as US$399. In this country, the sub-$1200 category has been around since last year.
Although this is market that Toshiba has stayed away from (no doubt impacting on its overall market share), Wittard says the commoditisation of the notebook market is inevitable, and is already happening. He predicts the death of the desktop within the next three years. In the third quarter of last year, notebook sales outstripped desktop sales in New Zealand for the first time.
Not surprisingly, notebook manufacturers require global economy of scale to survive – to avoid succumbing to the combined challenges of falling margins (average sell price pressure), competition, the cost of warranties and servicing, and achieving profitable growth. This explains why there are so few notebook manufacturers, and why each manufacturer must differentiate its products to build market share.
By the end of this year, Toshiba will have shipped its 50 millionth notebook to customer somewhere in the world. You can guarantee that, like all its 2006 notebooks, it will be fully RoHS compliant*, and it will feature advanced security and ruggedisation technology, which Toshiba calls “EasyGuard”.
Essentially this means the notebook has much better chance of surviving nasty accident. For example, three-dimensional drop-detection sensor disengages the hard disk drive when the notebook is dropped or bumped. The hard drive and polycarbonate screens are also shock mounted to minimise the possibility of cracking after fall; there is spill-resistant keyboard, and biometric fingerprint readers are now standard.
Wittard reports that the notebooks’ “high durability design” has more than halved the failure rate. The Portégé R200’s failure rate, for example, is just 0.5 percent – against an industry average of two percent.
Toshiba has been pioneer in the notebook market since it released its first notebook PC 20 years ago, and 2006 looks like it’s shaping up to be another landmark year for the company.
The migration from the desktop platform to mobile is gathering speed, and when you consider the amount of R&D money poured into the notebook platform, and not just by Toshiba, it’s hardly surprising.
By nature we all gravitate to smarter technology, and today’s stylish notebooks deliver that to us by the bucket-load.

*Restriction of Hazardous Substances – an EU directive that from 1 July 2006 requires all new electrical and electronic equipment to contain substitute materials for potentially hazardous materials including lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium.

Glenn Baker is regular contributor to Management.
[email protected]

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