Intel Aims to revitalize Netbook Evolution

intel_atom_originalThe Netbooks are intended for basic computing tasks, like e-mail and Web surfing. But they have grown larger and more powerful over time, and some users find them sufficiently capable to serve as their primary computers. By keeping netbook screen sizes in check, Intel wants to limit the cannibalization of laptop sales and manage user expectations.

When hardware makers build a small laptop, or netbook, based on the Atom netbook platform, they are generally bound by constraints that limit certain specifications, such as a screen size that doesn’t exceed 10.2 inches. These guidelines are meant to segment the laptop market and define a product category that is different from mainstream laptops.

Other companies hasn’t stopped from trying to give Atom-based netbooks bigger screens and more computing muscle. For example, Dell sells an Atom-based laptop with a 12-inch screen, called the Mini 12, that it bills as a “laptop/netbook” and graphics chip maker Nvidia’s GeForce Ion brings high-end multimedia and graphics capabilities to Atom.

Intel wasn’t particularly impressed. Eden believes Intel struck the right balance between computer performance and battery life with the Atom platform. In Intel’s view, bigger screens and more powerful graphics chips upset that carefully constructed balance, even if some users crave these features.

This is where rivals Advanced Micro Devices and Via Technologies sense an opportunity to push their own offerings. Both companies have released chips designed for thin and light laptops with bigger screens, such as Samsung Electronics’s Via Nano-based NC20 laptop and Hewlett-Packard’s Pavilion dv2, which uses AMD’s Athlon Neo processor.

Companies that try to tweak the platform by increasing screen size or adding better graphics also end up reducing the battery life of these machines.

Instead of upgraded specifications, Intel is pushing netbooks towards thinner and lighter demands with Pine Trail, the next version of the platform built around the upcoming Pineview version of Atom. Unlike the current versions of Atom used in netbooks, Pineview integrates a memory controller and graphics core with the processor, features that are designed to boost performance and save power.

Eden said that now they are trying to take this category to the next level and I will not be surprised if you see even the netbook space will be shaped differently because of the better battery life and better performance that they can produce.