Thin Intel Netbook to vie with MacBook Air?

The Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai was the showplace for Netbook portable PCs. Some of the upcoming designs look intriguing--and extremely thin.

During a keynote speech at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, an Intel executive brandished a Netbook that looked Air-thin. Will inexpensive Linux Netbooks be a poor man's MacBook Air?

Ultrathin Intel Atom-based Netbook shown at IDF
Ultrathin Intel Atom-based Netbook shown at IDF. Intel

Most of the photos to date of upcoming Netbooks are ho-hum designs, engineered to be inexpensive yet practical for users such as young schoolchildren. But some upcoming designs look intriguing--and extremely thin. (See close-up photo here--PC Watch.)

"This Netbook is running Linux...As you see, this doesn't mean an ugly design. It's a really nice-looking, stylish design," said Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobility Group, when waving a very-thin-looking Netbook (photo) at the audience during his keynote at IDF.

Consider the typical specifications for a Netbook (best exemplified by the tiny Eee PC) and it's not a stretch to design an ultraportable, ultrathin Netbook:

Power-sipping Atom processor: This chip will draw as little as 0.65 watt, much less than the Air's Core 2 Duo chip which has a TDP (Thermal Design Power, or thermal envelope) of 20 watts. This means less heat dissipation.

Solid-state drive: Netbooks (Eee PC, Intel Classmate) will typically use SSDs, not hard-disk drives--another power- and space-saving feature. (There will be exceptions such as the 2go , which packs a hard drive.)

No optical drive:: Typically, Netbooks won't come with optical drives--meaning power and cost savings.

Smaller display: Netbooks will have small, less-power-hungry displays, ranging from seven to nine inches.

Though not as well-endowed as full-fledged notebooks like the MacBook Air, Netbooks won't set you back $3,000 either. It's likely that the price will be much closer to $300--but that's a big unknown at this point.

Intel sees two distinct market opportunities for the Netbook. In the developing world, Netbooks will attract first-time buyers. In more mature markets, they will become supplemental PCs.

Click here for more stories on IDF Shanghai.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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