Monday, November 12, 2012

Laptops - get ready for the touchless glut

Not many people know we're in a laptop glut except manufacturers, retail outlets, and the refurb shops.  That is to say the consumer has not been informed there is a glut to ensure they don't demand better prices.

The notebook market has taken a serious hit from tablets.  Everyone has seen the near-disappearance of the netbook due to tablets.  The netbook segment isn't unneeded though as very small notebooks are still very desirable for certain tasks.  But they are not sexy and the demand is smaller now.  Perhaps the smaller need can be fulfilled by refurbs?  Microsoft wants that market segment to use their new Surface tablet with the keyboard "click-on" cover.  They are not quite the same as tablets and do not have the connectivity options that a netbook or notebook has.

The killer: Windows 8 and touchscreens.  If (when) Windows 8 gains acceptable, what will people want?  Touchscreens.  Once more: Touchscreens.  In past years, adding touch to screens was rather expensive so to keep costs down such a little-used option was not included.  Those that tried used the older stylus-type screens that never gained much popularity.

So Windows 8 works best with a touchscreen.  What about all the machines that do not have a touchscreen?  They either run Windows 8 without touch (gasp!) or they run "legacy" operating systems like Windows 7, linux, etc.  You cannot retrofit these devices with touch on the screen.  There is a HUGE pool of new and refurb laptops out there.  The prices are coming down a bit but the market does NOT want you to know of the glut as you'll demand rock-bottom prices.  You should.  This market will be hitting a bottom so the consumer who does not want touch will benefit greatly.

In the ashes we have some companies that may exit the laptop business if they do not innovate.   Certainly Intel and AMD have been squirming by the tone of recent articles.  This week, talk that Apple will move eventually from Intel to ARM.  Microsoft Surface RT devices use ARM.  The x86 architecture may finally be approaching the reef.  I've thought that Intel i3 and i5 laptops have been overpriced by $100 to $300 (and on Ultrabooks, some corner cutting on features without price cuts has been absurd).

Again, who may benefit?  You.  If you need computing, do a bit of searching.  Find better, make offers to pay less.  When the market finally tanks, who knows what will happen, but who usually wins in the short term is you.  In the longer term, it will be a brave new world and who knows how the market will shape up.