Netbooks, Goldilocks and Nvidia

August 25, 2009

Netbook makers say the small laptop computers are perfect for Goldilocks – not too big, not too small, just right. But Nvidia wonders if smaller Internet-connected smartbooks might make the netbooks line look like a fairy tale.

“I wonder if the netbook is not enough satisfaction for a PC, not enough battery life to be mobile? I kind of feel like the netbook is a ‘tweener’,” Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang said on Monday on the sidelines of a conference on the Stanford University campus, later adding that he thought netbooks would be replaced by “smartbooks.”

That would be great for Nvidia Corp, since it is making ARM-based chips for smartbooks while its rival Intel Corp’s Atom powers most netbooks. The bet on lower-power ARM chips is that consumers will privilege battery life over computing power.

But Nvidia’s chief spoke in the face of big headwinds: Mobile phone maker Nokia said it would enter the low-cost, low-power PC market with a “booklet” using Intel’s Atom chip.

Nvidia so far has announced only one device based on its ARM-technology Tegra chip– Microsoft’s Zune HD — but Huang has said 50 more designs, 35 of which are “smartbooks,” will be announced in the second half of 2009 or in early 2010.

Nvidia also sells an Ion chipset that can be paired with Intel’s Atom in netbooks.

(Reporting by Clare Baldwin)

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