Monday, January 14, 2008

Lenovo Puts Style in New Laptop

Jane Spencer writes:

For Lenovo Group Ltd., red is the new black.

After years of targeting business users with its conservative, black ThinkPad laptops, the personal-computer company is going after everyday consumers with a flashy new notebook line called IdeaPad.

The product line, which includes red aluminum-alloy cases, beefed-up gaming features and halo lighting, is part of a major strategic shift for Lenovo, as it tries to compete head-on with the likes of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Apple Inc. in selling PCs directly to consumers in the U.S and other developed countries.

But as Lenovo takes aim at consumers, it is looking at a crowded, competitive market. Companies such as Dell Inc. and Acer Inc. are vying for space on retail shelves, and brands are struggling to distinguish themselves on something other than price as differences among computer brands on performance and function have diminished in recent years.

"Everybody's got a glossy black notebook that's super thin and super light, and the question is, what do they do next?" says John Spooner, a senior analyst at Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H.

OLPC developing dual-boot Windows, Linux OS for laptops

January 09, 2008 (IDG News Service) -- The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project and Microsoft Corp. are working together to develop a dual-boot system to put both Linux and Windows on laptops aimed at kids in developing countries, the head of OLPC said in an interview Tuesday.

"We are working with them very closely to make a dual-boot system so that, like on an Apple, you can boot either one up. The version that's up and running of Windows on the XO is very fast, it's very, very successful. We're working very hard to do both," said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC.

Mini low-cost laptop from Taiwan invading U.S.

From the Mercury News:

Asus, the world's largest maker of motherboards, believes it's on the cusp of doing what no Taiwanese tech company has done before: fuel a consumer trend with its new low-cost mini-laptop, the Eee PC.

The former contract technology company is hoping its 7-inch notebook, which sells for less than $500 and slips into a purse, wins it a foothold in the United States. Though Asus is not the only PC maker to jump into this emerging market - and others are expected to follow - it has so far received a thumbs up from analysts and consumers.

The Eee PC is part of a mini movement to market little laptops. Initially, the gadgets were aimed at the developing world. Now, some computer makers realize these light-weight laptops could be sellers in countries like the United States. They have hit a sweet spot among some consumers because of their compact design, low cost and durability.

The two-pound Eee PC, made with children and older people unfamiliar with computers in mind, has garnered unexpected interest from on-the-move adults looking for a slim, durable and light machine for basic computing.

"That's one thing we did not anticipate," admitted Asus President Jonathan Tsang. "It's been pretty hot."

Asus, which launched its customized Linux laptops in October, sold about 350,000 in three months. Early in the holiday season, this iPod of the PCs was the No. 1-selling computer on

What's "In The Air" At MacWorld? WiMax? Or Ultra-WideBand?

Arik writes:

The consensus appears to be that WiMax will be introduced in Apple notebooks, and the much-rumored ultra-portable product. WiMax, you’ll recall, is that next-generation wireless data connection technology that Intel so loves, and that Sprint has been testing under the name Xohm. It’s an interesting notion, and certainly plausible. But Wimax has had some setbacks of late, not the least of which was the parting of the ways between Sprint and Clearwire last year. As Valleywag notes, heading down the Wimax path would be a risky play for Apple. It could certainly be the type of move that sets the entire computer industry on a new course that the PC vendors are forced to follow. Or the service could suck, and the whole idea could conceivably backfire. Dan Frommer at AlleyInsider doubts the WiMax idea, and not unfairly.

There’s also a lot of chatter around streaming video for the iPhone, probably enabled via a Slingbox client for the iPhone. That would be something “in the air” too. Right? Sure. But given that SlingBox software is available for all the other major wireless platforms, from the Blackberry to the Symbian OS, this one is almost obvious.

But there’s another option. One of the rumor sites, Macmegasite suggested that the new wireless technology could be something called “Beam,” which it describes as file sharing technology that’s faster than Bluetooth. That got me to thinking, and suddenly while at the barber shop, a thought struck me: Could Apple be ready to deploy Ultra-Wideband technology? More after the jump.

Tiny Dynamites

Adam Turner writes:

Bigger isn't always better when it comes to computers and, thanks to tiny notebook PCs, lugging around a computer need not be back-breaking work.

If you've resorted to hiring a sherpa to carry all your high-tech gadgets, a computer that fits in the palm of your hand might seem like the ultimate gadget on the go. Remember the trade-off with a tiny computer is a tiny keyboard and tiny screen. Unless you've got eagle eyes and toothpicks for fingers, you might struggle to achieve any more than slow two-finger (or two-thumb) typing. If you can really get by with a device that small, perhaps you should go the extra step and get a smartphone with a full Qwerty keyboard - such as a Palm Treo 750 or a HTC TyTN II.

Notebook sizes are measured according to the diagonal measurement of the screen. Your standard notebook size is 14 to 15.4 inches (that's roughly 35 to 39 cm, but notebook makers still work with old-school measurements). You generally pay a premium for anything bigger or smaller.

Many notebooks now have widescreen displays, which means the screen is shaped like a rectangular movie screen rather than a squarish television. The fact screens are measured on the diagonal means a 14-inch widescreen display is wider than a standard 14-inch display, but not as tall.

Opting for a small notebook often means sacrificing more than screen real estate and keyboard size. Heat is the natural enemy of the computer, so tiny notebooks usually sport low-power processors to avoid overheating. This shouldn't be a problem for email and web surfing, but if you're after serious grunt for gaming or video editing then a tiny notebook probably won't do.

CES: Lenovo kick starts its consumer laptop line

From SFGate:

Lenovo's been known for its business notebooks, the Thinkpads. But now the company is doing the consumer think with a new line called IdeaPads.

The 11-inch U110 was available for viewing for the first time and it's sweet little addition to the growing compact notebook space.

Some things that are cool about it:

-It has facial recognition so it can be unlocked by showing your face. It doesn't matter if you've grown a beard since the last time you've used the computer, it knows who you are. And, if someone tries to log into your computer, it can take a picture of them.

-It's got a touch panel above the keypad that allows you to access media keys.

-It's only 2.3 pounds.

-It doesn't have a bezel around the display.

-It's got some cool etching designs on the front that continue to the back. It's definitely eye-catching.

The pricing hasn't been set for the U110, but it's set to come in less than $2,000 when it goes on sale in April.

Lenovo Enters Consumer PC Market

Christine writes:

Lenovo, which was formed by the acquisition of the former IBM Personal Computing Division, has announced its entrance into the consumer PC market globally through a new line of consumer-oriented computers. The IdeaPad is the name for the company’s new notebook PC line, while the desktop PCs will carry the moniker IdeaCentre.

Three notebooks will be available in Canada later this year: the IdeaPad Y510, Y710 and U110. All three will come powered by an Intel Centrino processor, and include advanced features like facial recognition through VeriFace that makes the user’s face his “password”, Dolby Home Theatre surround sound, and dedicated gaming controls. Each model boasts a frameless screen, and touch-sensitive control surfaces.

"Our ThinkPad notebooks are well-known around the world as the best engineered computer for business: for quality, reliability and thoughtful design," said Liu Jun, Senior Vice President and President, Consumer Business Group, Lenovo. "We're now bringing Lenovo's expertise in design and engineering to consumers with our Idea-branded PCs."

Laptops are taking over as computer of choice

Michelle Quinn writes:

SAN FRANCISCO — After decades as the computer of choice for homes and businesses, the desktop PC is being pushed to the scrap heap by its smaller, nimbler sibling: the laptop.

They've been around since the early 1980s, but portable computers are finally taking over. Last year, for the first time, American consumers bought more of them than desktops. Sixteen of the 20 bestselling PCs on this holiday season were laptops.

U.S. corporations are expected to make laptops the majority of their computer purchases in 2008. BNSF Railway Co. already has. Of the 4,000 Dell Inc. computers it bought last year, 60 percent were laptops, so rail inspectors could file reports from their trucks and other employees could work from home.

"They were in a totally tethered world, and now they have no tethering at all," said Jeff Campbell, the Fort Worth, Texas, company's chief information officer.

Faster, cheaper technology is behind the most sweeping change the computer industry has seen in a generation. Buying a computer that can be spirited away in a briefcase or backpack no longer requires a big sacrifice in performance, storage or money.

Notebook PC explosion: battery manufacturer dropped safety tests

The manufacturer of a notebook PC battery that was seen exploding in dramatic TV footage apparently skipped safety tests when it tested newer battery models.

Video of the notebook PC exploding in flames shocked viewers and drove down the share prices of its manufacturer, LG Electronics, and battery maker, LG Chem.

According to the most recently published LG Chem safety specifications seen by, the company no longer carries out three safety tests that were designed to ensure batteries could survive physical damage without exploding. The company also reduced the severity of a test that is intended to check battery safety when overheated.

Apple set to announce slim-line plans at Macworld?

From Reuters:

As the annual Consumer Electronics Show winds down to lacklustre reviews, Apple is expected to grab the spotlight with an ultra-slim laptop computer and online movie rentals next week at its biggest annual show - Macworld.

The new products are seen more as enhancements to Apple's current offerings, rather than ones that pack the "wow factor" of last year's star attraction, the iPhone.

...Notebooks have been one of Apple's strongest segments. In its fourth fiscal quarter ended last September, the company sold 1.34 million MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops, up 37 per cent from a year earlier.

Golvin said: "What I'm guessing we might see from Apple is something a little more recognisable as a MacBook device, as a derivative of a laptop or tablet rather than a cool new form factor that sits between laptop and mobile phone."

Apple to unveil new products at giant Macworld event

From the Free Press:

Last week, it was the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This week, the big personal tech news event is the annual Macworld Show in San Francisco, where Apple is expected to unveil a new ultra-slim notebook and announce a new movie rental download service.

More than 50,000 people are expected to attend this year's event and Apple CEO Steve Jobs has a real challenge on his hands to match the news from last year's event, where he announced the revolutionary iPhone.

This year, the Apple rumor sites have been in full press mode talking about a new subcompact machine that is 50% thinner than current models. Internet rumor has it called the "MacBook Air," though Apple hasn't officially confirmed anything.

The other big Apple news expected is a deal with most of the major Hollywood studios to allow movie rentals from the iTunes Store. Apple has sold movies via the store for a long time and other firms already allow movies to be rented and downloaded to a PC so, in itself, this is no big deal. What gives it significance is the sheer size of the iTunes store and its more than 70 million users, almost all potential movie renters.

Similarly, no major announcements are anticipated for the iPhone at the show this year, although Jobs is expected to show off a software upgrade that will add some new features like multiparty texting and announce hardware improvements for later this year.

Ultrathin Laptops

From Newsweek:

One rumor that's been impossible to shake is that the MacBook Pro could get an upgrade—or rather, downgrade. Don't be surprised to see a thinner, lighter laptop with a 12-inch screen released some time around February (in the $1700-$1800 range). The new machines—some are calling them—"subnotebooks"-will come with Intel inside, naturally.

Second Generation iPhone
This is, after all, the one-year anniversary of the first iPhone announcement. Some expect to see a 16 Gb iPhone, carrying twice the capacity of the current model. Another possibility is that Apple might uncuff the device from AT&T's service—which has been a sore point among folks who prefer to choose their own service provider. (Some more enterprising customers have already taken this matter into their own hands.)

High Definition
Analysts suspect Jobs will announce that Apple is embracing Blu-ray, Sony's high-definition DVD technology. For its part, Microsoft already has a partnership with Toshiba and its HD DVD format (which, given Warner Bros.'s recent announcement that it will be releasing movies only in the Blue-ray format, may be the losing bet). What better way to stick it to your nemesis?

Technology world braces for latest Apple releases a year after Steve Jobs announced release of the iPhone

From the Times of London:

A year after Steve Jobs announced the iPhone to the world, thousands of Apple enthusiasts have gathered at the Macworld Conference & Expo 2008 to find out what he has in store this year.

Tomorrow Mr Jobs will take to the stage for the 24th Macworld, with the technology world braced for a series of new announcements. But few of the 50,000 expected to flock to San Francisco imagine that this year’s Macworld will spark the same kind of frenzy as last year.

“All I can say for certain is that Macworld 2008 is not going to top 2007. That was the Macworld of Macworlds,” said Charlie Wolf, analyst at Needham & Co.

The touch-screen iPhone quickly became the must-have gadget of 2007, sparking a doubling of Apple’s share price and spawning a halo effect that sent its share of the personal computer market soaring.

Apple refuses to reveal in advance what it will announce this year, but the firm is expected to unveil a number of new products. Bloggers who have already arrived in San Francisco are particularly excited by posters and banners springing up around the city proclaiming that there is "something in the air".

This, many speculate, could be a reference to a new, ultra-portable notebook that Apple is thought to have been developing. Websites have been buzzing with the suggestion that the ultra-light laptop will be called the Macbook Air. Industry insiders urge caution, however; Apple is well known for spreading false rumours, in a bid to ratchet up the hype.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Software Notebook: Jobs to take Macworld stage


Apple has received lots of attention in the past year for the launch of the iPhone, but not to be left out, the company's Macintosh computers have been making their own mark.

Apple's share of the worldwide personal-computer market topped 3 percent as of the third quarter, up from about 2 percent two years ago, according to the IDC research firm. It's still a modest slice, but the increase came as Microsoft released a new version of Windows, an event that has boosted interest in Windows PCs in the past.

The increase in Mac sales will be part of the backdrop as Apple CEO Steve Jobs takes the stage Tuesday morning for his annual keynote address at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The event is a Woodstock of sorts for the Apple community, and it is closely watched by the rest of the technology industry.

But the Mac's rise is far from the only storyline. These are some of the products, issues and technologies that could play a role in Jobs' keynote and the rest of the conference.

Redialing the iPhone: Jobs used last year's Macworld to unveil the iPhone, Apple's combination iPod, mobile phone and Internet device. Given the timing, six months after its U.S. launch and two months after its European debut, some industry analysts say it would be too soon for Jobs to unveil a second generation of iPhone hardware.

'Ultraportable' Mac? Perhaps the hottest rumor leading up to Macworld is that Jobs may unveil a miniature laptop computer, smaller than existing Macs, perhaps with solid-state flash storage rather than a traditional hard drive.

A year after CEO introduced the iPhone, rumors abound about Apple's new products

From the SF Chronicle:

Now that the Consumer Electronics Show has packed up and left Las Vegas, attention is shifting to this week's Macworld Expo in San Francisco and Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs' keynote speech on Tuesday morning.

The notoriously secretive Cupertino technology company has kept a tight lid on rumors, but that hasn't stopped the rampant speculation about its anticipated new products and services.

This time last year, Apple introduced the iPhone, a move that reinforced Apple's role as a digital lifestyle trendsetter and still reverberates in the consumer electronics industry. The company's stock climbed furiously through 2007, tipping over $200 per share in late December - though, like the rest of the technology industry, it has dropped in early January.

Now the question for Jobs is: What's Apple going to do for an encore?

"What everyone wants from Steve is, 'What's next?' " said Creative Strategies' principal analyst Tim Bajarin. "You don't have to create a new blockbuster every year. What you have to do is make it better. ... They're looking for Apple to keep the record going."

What Apple should (and shouldn't) announce at Macworld

Don Reisinger writes:

With all the rumors surrounding Macworld, it's difficult to sift through those possibilities that could actually come true and those that are pure rubbish. And while I don't think I have all the answers, it seems more and more likely that some of the expectations some of us have for Steve next week may not come true.

As it stands, most people are saying that iTunes movie rentals will become a reality next week and an ultraportable Mac is in the works. Still others believe Jobs will revamp the Apple TV and some people believe he'll refresh the entire MacBook line. As for me? I'll tell you what he should (and shouldn't) do when he takes the stage next week.

Possibility 1: iTunes Movie Rentals

Gee, you think? Of course Steve is going to announce iTunes movie rentals next week. Whether you want to believe it or not, iTunes is in the midst of a major battle with Amazon on the music front and it's losing right now. Sure, Amazon may not generate as much revenue, but which service has all the DRM-free tunes that you can put on any device you want? It certainly isn't Apple's.

Because of that, Jobs can differentiate iTunes with video and movie rentals. Not only will rentals generate even more revenue for the company's service, it could become a hub for those who are unwilling to leave their homes to rent a movie. That said, this won't take off unless the company has a solid infrastructure in place and we won't need to sit there for hours waiting for the feature-length film to download.

What Should Apple Do Next?

From Businessweek:

Jobs' game plan for Apple has been apparent since he took back the reins of the embattled Cupertino (Calif.) company in 1997. Products, from the original iMac, which was launched in 1998, to the iPod, have focused on relentlessly reducing complexity, honing the brand's image for clean, simple design.

What's more, additional products—from a new Apple operating system to media devices and computers—all fell into a well-designed ecosystem for a seamless user experience. Jobs also encouraged socializing so users could easily share music, movies, or videos. Executives asking themselves how their company might create a product as successful as the iPod are barking up the wrong tree. A better question, according to designers and innovation consultants, is: "What would Apple do?"

The key, explains Yves Béhar, founder of fuseproject and a winner of a Gold IDEA/BusinessWeek design award, is that "Apple conceives its products as a symbiosis of hardware, software, and user experience." Under Jobs' leadership, he says, Apple has cultivated a corporate culture that inculcates this holistic type of thinking throughout the organization. One result: the so-called iPod ecosystem that includes not only the sophisticated hardware and technology inside the industrial design, but also the iTunes software and user interface, the online music store, and more generally the Mac operating system. "The joke around our offices is that everyone at Apple is a designer because they all think in this way," adds Béhar.

Jesse James Garrett, president of Adaptive Path, a San Francisco firm specializing in user experience design, says: "Apple really excels at taking aspects of our daily lives that we find frustrating and overly complicated and proving they don't have to be as complex as we've always assumed." The company's track record of doing this successfully contributes to the "enormous amount of goodwill for the brand," he adds before suggesting someone should apply the Cupertino-based company's logic to mass public transportation.

Apple fans hope for subcompact computer at Macworld

From the USA Today:

LOS ANGELES — It's back to the Mac this week.

During a record-setting 2007, Apple (AAPL) rewrote its history with the success of the iPhone and continuing strong sales of the iPod line. This week, the company is expected to turn the focus to its roots: computers.

On Tuesday at the Macworld conference in San Francisco, Apple will show its new wares, with expectations running high among bloggers, fan sites and Apple analysts that the company will unveil a subcompact notebook computer.

"What will make this unique is its thinness, a good 50% thinner than existing Mac laptops," says Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. "Notebooks are the fastest-growing segment of the computer market. More people are bringing their computers everywhere with them."

He expects the notebook to skip the traditional hard drive and have built-in flash memory instead, which will help to make it ultra small.

Taiwan's Quanta Computer raises 2008 shipment target to 40 mln notebooks


TAIPEI, Jan 14, 2008 (XFN-ASIA via COMTEX) -- QUCPF | news | PowerRating | PR Charts -- Quanta Computer Inc (2382.TW) president CC Leung has raised the company's 2008 shipment target to over 40 mln notebook personal computers from 36 mln originally due to strong projections for the industry's growth, the Economic Daily News reported.

The world's leading notebook contract manufacturer delivered 31.8 mln units in 2007.

The newspaper also quoted Hewlett Packard supply chain official Ike Harris as saying that HP company will order 10 mln notebooks from Quanta Computer this year.

Notebooks Outnumber Desktops in the Consumer Sector

Brandon Hill writes:

The writing has been on the wall for years concerning the rise of the notebook computer. Notebooks were once relegated to business professionals and the upwardly mobile types that didn't mind paying $1,000 USD or more to “cut the cord.”

However, Intel's Centrino campaign coupled with lower component prices have allowed the notebook market to blossom. Society's craving for wireless Internet access anywhere and a shrinking performance gap between desktops and notebooks have finally allowed the former to rise to the top in consumer PC sales.

Notebooks for the first time outsold desktops during 2007 for the consumer market. Online retailer reinforced the dominance of the notebook with its sales stats for the holiday season – 16 of its top-selling PCs during the holiday season were notebooks.

While consumers are quickly adopting notebooks to replace desktops, corporations are also making the switch – albeit at a slower pace. For this reason, notebooks still trail desktops slightly in overall PC marketshare.

Notebook sales increased to 31.6 million units during 2007 (a rise of 21 percent) while desktop sales dipped to 35 million units (a fall of 4 percent) for the overall PC market. Notebooks are expected to gain momentum in the coming years and are projected to reach 66 percent overall PC marketshare (71 percent for consumers) by 2011.

Taiwan's Quanta Takes off the Gloves

From Barron's:

AS THE WORLD'S LARGEST contract maker of notebook computers, Quanta Computer is used to beating its competitors.

That hasn't been true for the Taiwanese company's shares: They dropped 21% in 2007 as the stocks of local rivals Compal Electronics (ticker: 2324.Taiwan) and Wistron (3231.Taiwan) gained 23% and 32%, respectively. Why? Compal and Wistron cut prices to gain market share, while Quanta (2382.Taiwan) early last year tried to maintain its margins by emphasizing the quality of its work.

But analysts say Quanta has gotten more flexible on its pricing to win new business, and corporate demand for notebook computers has surged, relieving some margin pressure. In the third quarter, Quanta's net profit jumped 36%, to a record, as shipments rose and revenue nearly doubled. The company also upgraded its shipment forecast -- to 36 million notebooks for '08, after selling more than 30 million in '07.

The key drivers for continuing to overcome pricing pressures will be maintaining Quanta's stellar volume growth on notebooks and its success in making non-notebook products like the Apple iPod -- and soon, possibly, a second-generation iPhone. Quanta is already the primary supplier of MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks. Apple, now the world's third-largest PC maker, switched MacBook orders from another Taiwanese rival, Asustek Computer. Meanwhile, Acer, another major PC maker, has increased orders.

Investors may also want to review Quanta's valuation in a market that's lagged behind other Asian bourses. Quanta shares, which now fetch 11 times earnings, trade at a discount to the Taiwan exchange's 12.3 multiple. The stock could climb as high as 68 New Taiwanese dollars (U.S. $2.10) from its recent price of NT$46.05, according to Citi Investment Research. Others are even more bullish. Credit Suisse sees upside to NT$70.