Intel executives started a lively debate on netbooks during a briefing for press and analysts this week.
Firstly, EMEA vice president Gordon Graylish stated that netbooks - the mini laptops popularised by Asus with its Eee PC range - have not dented sales of other types of laptops, and are in fact additional sales making up a new sector of the market.
This might come as a surprise to readers who have seen various headlines recently proclaiming that netbooks are "cannibalising" or "gouging" sales of more traditional laptop designs.
In Intel's view, netbooks are a new category of device used for simple tasks such as web browsing and messaging, rather than running any serious applications. This was despite the fact that several of the journalists covering the event were in fact using netbooks.
The subject of netbooks caused an esteemed colleague of mine to treat one of the Intel executives to a rant. The sudden rise of netbooks took the chipmaker by surprise, he opined, because Intel spends too much time listening to executives in large corporations and so it had been blind to the demand elsewhere for low-cost, lightweight laptops.
Rob Sheppard, Intel's Business Client marketing manager, said that netbooks are not suitable for business use because they have no support for Intel's vPro technology, are not validated for operating systems used in business, and are not part of Intel's Stable Image Platform Programme.
These, however, are largely marketing issues. I put it to Sheppard that Intel could build vPro into netbooks if it chose to. His response is too lengthy to be repeated in full, but seemed to boil down to the fact that netbooks do not have vPro because Intel does not regard them as a business platform.
Likewise, netbooks typically have at least 1GB memory and can easily run Windows XP Professional rather than the Home edition of the platform they almost all ship with.
Of course, many business professionals are likely to prefer a laptop with a larger display than the 10in screen of a typical netbook for everyday use, but given the choice between embarking on a business trip with a bulky corporate laptop or a netbook, which would you choose?
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