What's Left for Desktops?
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To keep their growth coming, Acer, Asustek and others vying for laptop dominance are increasingly looking to segmentation, taking aim at the wide range of computer buyers.
The runaway success of low-cost mini notebooks, initially derided by many industry watchers but now one of the fastest growing categories, could foreshadow a coming boom in products offering a wide range of prices and functions.
"There is incredible choice in the notebook space now," said IDC analyst Richard Shim. "You can get notebooks at every inch size from 5-inch to 20-inch."
Alex Gruzen, Dell's manager for consumer products, agreed that the days when his company could offer laptops "in the same shades of grey" are coming to an end.
Segmentation comes in both form and substance. In the former, Asustek offers a bamboo-cased laptop for the environmentally conscious. HP has tied up with designer Vivenne Tam to release the "world's first digital clutch," a notebook designed to look like a woman's handbag.
On the more technical front, companies are offering an ever wider range of specialized laptops in varying sizes, processing speeds, wireless capabilities and prices. Battery life is also coming into play, with HP recently announcing that one of its notebooks had broken the 24-hour barrier.
Faster boot-up times and features such as touch-screens are also being touted as companies try to convert former desktop users and build new markets.
What's Left for Desktops?
As portability becomes the norm, some are asking if there's any room left for desktops in the brave new era of laptops.
Salesmen at Taipei's Kuanghwa computer market, one of the city's top PC hang-outs, said hardcore computer game addicts may be one of the few groups to keep buying desktops that offer greater processing power for memory-intensive applications.
"Hardly anyone buys desktops anymore," said Elton Tsai, gesturing toward the solitary HP desktop sitting in his shop amid rows of laptops.
"Anyone who is enough of a geek to want real processing power can probably assemble his own computer, saving himself at least a few thousand Taiwan dollars in the process," Tsai said.
But not everyone believes the desktop, which was first introduced in the 1970s, will soon be relegated to the junkyard of history. After all, desktops can still offer substantial savings, especially for those who are handy with a screwdriver.
"How can a laptop compete with a desktop on price?," asked Gartner analyst Lillian Tay.
"Especially in the emerging markets where price is a consideration, laptops simply cannot compete on price with a group of people who slap a motherboard, a hard drive and a few chips together to get a desktop," she said.