Acer, Nvidia unveil pint-sized desktop PC

Nvidia and Acer on Tuesday unveiled a low-cost, full-featured desktop computer the size of hardback book, the first device based on Nvidia’s Ion platform.

The new Acer AspireRevo features an Nvidia graphics processing unit along with Intel Atom microprocessor. (Although they might sit comfortably together in the new PC, Intel and Nvidia continue to be bitter rivals in the chip world and battle each other in court.)

Nvida says the AspireRevo uses one-quarter the power of standard desktops and is 10 times faster than comparably priced PCs.  The system can do most things a full-sized PC can, including play high-definition video and games, share digital pics and Web surfing.

Although Acer hasn’t yet announced a price for the PC, Nvidia says it expects Ion-based desktops to sell for less than $300. Ion-based notebooks are expected in the second half of the year, with price points expected to be below $500.

Intel boosts share, thanks to netbooks

The rise in popularity of netbooks last year helped boost Intel’s already dominant position in the global microprocessor market, according to fresh data from iSuppli. The research group said Intel gained share in every quarter of 2008, partly due to the success of its Atom chip in netbooks, the small, inexpensive, stripped-down PCs that have become hugely popular with consumers.

Intel held a an 81.8 percent revenue share in the microprocessor market in the fourth quarter, up from 78.4 percent a year earlier, iSuppli said. AMD, Intel’s main rival, accounted for 10.6 percent of microprocessor revenue in the period, down from 14.1 percent a year earlier.

“Intel grew its share of microprocessor in every quarter of 2008 on a sequential basis, effectively using each quarter as a building block for the next,” said iSuppli analyst Matthew Wilkins in a statement. “During this time, Intel’s low-priced Atom has become increasingly popular as the netbook market has gained steam.”

HP sees positive netbook effect

Stripped down, low-cost netbooks may be the hottest thing going in personal computers these days, but there continues to be debate about their ultimate impact on the income statement. Almost all of the world’s major PC companies have by now dived into the netbook market, including Hewlett-Packard, the world’s No. 1 PC maker.

HP CFO Cathie Lesjak was asked at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference whether the company expects to see a netbook impact on average selling prices (ASPs) and margins.

“I think you really need to separate ASP pressures from margins. Because first off we actually believe that netbooks in the long term are going to… generate incremental revenue and ultimately incremental profits … The netbook also has a lower bill of materials… If you’ve got good cost structure … long term we actually think this is positive for PC revenue and profit.”

CES: Is Sony’s new Vaio a netbook?

In the old days -– say six months ago -– netbooks were easy to describe in a few short words. Cheap (less than $400), small (10-inch screen or less) and light (less than 3 pounds). Alas, things are not quite so simple anymore.

The netbook category’s parameters were already expanding as the market flooded with new offerings. Screen sizes crept up, as did retail prices.

And then along comes Sony to really confuse things with its Vaio P Series Lifestyle PC, which it unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show. It’s plenty small (8-inch screen) and light (1.4 pounds). But note that decidedly un-netbook-like price tag: $900.

CES: Gadgets, from the corny to the cute

We reporters got the usual sneak peak at some of the gadgets on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, a couple days before the official start on Thursday.  Nothing struck us as terribly exciting or revolutionary, but there were a number of things that caught our eye. Just because they were cute, earth-friendly or designed to make life — or rather, downloads — a little easier. Here’s a selection of what we’ve seen so far:

Netbooks: OK, they’re not for making Photoshop collages or watching high-res movies (and the tiny keyboard can give you hand cramps after a while), but netbooks are light to carry and easy on the eye. We checked out the Asus netbooks, the smallest of which has a 7-inch screen. They have a new tablet PC model too, complete with a swivel screen and stylus. Lenovo also had netbooks on display.

Universal remote control: Not a big deal, but Logitech’s newest one is a sleek little gadget, with a 3.5-inch touch screen that fits easily in the palm of your hand. It’s an improvement on their previous universal remote, which had both a touch-based user interface and keys, the exhibitor told us. But it’s not cheap — she said it would retail for $499.95 from end-February onwards.