Friday, June 26, 2009

COBY Has a Netbook: NB PC1022 -- World's Cheapest 10-Inch?

Coby NB PC1022: The Cheapest 10-inch Netbook at $240 -- Coming to Big Lots, CVS, etc.?

This is an appealing product, a screen that size for that price. To get an idea of the screen size, fold a sheet of typing paper in half. If you measure diagonally, that is 10 inches -- not quite the right aspect ratio, but you get the idea.

What would be the cheapest 10-inch laptop was displayed at the Comptex computer show early this month in Taiwan. The display (photo) was in a section reserved for mainland Chinese companies.

FOR MORE PHOTOS OF COBY NETBOOK 1022, CLICK HERE. One photo shows Windows 7 malware (ugh), but I would not expect that (or buy it).

The company is Coby Electronics, based in Shenzhen (Guangdong province). The logo on the machines (see photo) is the same as that of the famous US supplier of consumer packaged electronics (bubblepacks, etc.) to discount stores, which is based in the New York City area. Coby Electronics in New York denied last December that they were producing a mini-laptop computer, then showed about 10 of them at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. See here:

However, the company displaying at the Computex show claims to be selling the PC1022 in Korea, S. America, and parts of Asia. As you can see, its logo appears to be the same as the one we are all familiar with from seeing it at Big Lots and other cheap outlets. The relationship between the American Coby and the Chinese Coby is unclear. The American company does have a factory in Foshan China.

So I would be on the outlook for this:

The Coby NB PC1022 is a 10-inch netbook with an Atom N270 processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 160 GB of storage. A webcam is included so that you’ll get the fullest netbook experience. The price for large orders is $220.


  1. I think $240 might still be too high for Big Lots and CVS. I've seen $150 items at Big Lots near xmastime (TVs and things like that) and naturally CVS sells drugs that are more expensive than that, but I haven't seen any electronics over about $129 there, even during the xmas blitz. Maybe Big Lots will carry these once they're being closed out (I should go and see if I can score an Eee or Aspire One from the first wave) but I think they'll still have to be cheaper for the drugstores to start carrying them.

    On the other hand, I've seen Coby at K-mart, and this seems like it'd be right up their alley. Granted some of their stores sell laptops already, but this would be a pretty good doorbuster item, especially if they got it down closer to cost.

    It seems to me that ARM systems on a chip (or even more MIPS) plus Linux and a better customization job than we've seen companies like Xandros do, yet which doesn't feel like a big smartphone (software people recognize like Skype and Firefox is important, I think), is going to be the key to the $100-150 price point necessary for the blisterpack phenomenon to reach its full effect.

    Overall, though, very encouraging news and an indication to the PC industry that the consumer electronics industry isn't afraid of lower price points.

  2. You are quite right. Software that people will recognize is key. Too bad people don't want to try new software for basic apps. It is often easier to use than Microsoft. Maybe Google and others can put Android across for PCs.

    Seems like I did see a Toshiba laptop advertised for around $400 in a CVS flyer here in the Cleveland area (it was a good deal, too). This market, about the nation's 15th I believe, is known to devote a bigger portion of the consumer dollar to drugstores than any other market. (Maybe the tightest area in the US.) But it's true people tend to buy the cheap electronics at drugstores. We've got a chain called Marc's that has been selling 7-inch Disney LCD picture displays for $12.95. If some computer company wants to close out netbooks, I could see Marc's possibly doing it for a whole lot less than $100.

    Have you seen the recent news stories that say that netbooks might fade away, having been absorbed into the notebook category? The bottom-feeding consumers haven't deserted them; they deserted us, moving upscale.

  3. As computers become a consumer-electronics category for the mass market, instead of just an office and specialty product, they become a trap for Microsoft.

    CE always is a trap for American companies. Any category of CE always eventually is taken over by foreigners.

    Microsoft and friends have every reason to want the netbook category to go away and not become just another CE category.

    So do the mainstream tech magazines. I just picked up a copy of "Technology Review" at a newstand, and it had a good article on cheap netbooks, but the cheapest was $100 more than the Alpha 400. If computers become mere consumer appliances, what will all the PC magazines do? How many non-techie general consumers will care about their highly technical reviews? How many advertisers will care either?

    It's not paranoia to see that existing computer suppliers and magazines have a vested interest in ignoring the cheapest computers and hoping the whole ultracheap phenom goes away. It might appear stalled out sometimes, but it will prevail in the end.

  4. I think that many computers already are consumer appliances. My parents use their PC to play Solitaire and print pictures from their digital camera. I know many, many people who use their home PCs for nothing but web, chat and document handling. But real netbooks (as opposed to "slightly less expensive notebooks that still don't include antivirus and office software which most people end up paying a few hundred extra dollars for") would enlarge that market segment.

    On the other hand, when there were robust home computer markets, from the early 80s to the mid-to-late-90s, there were quite a few successful consumer-oriented computer magazines like Compute! and Computer Life. If anything, I'd say that kind of magazine has a better shot at a continued audience now that most technical people get their computer news online.

    The rise in prices in the netbook market is disheartening, but not that unexpected. The industry was threatened by the phenomenon, and took a page from Microsoft's book: embrace (offer a few netbooks, but never as cheaply as originally advertised), extend (change the definition of netbook to include more and more expensive laptops), and extinguish (announce, as they're doing now, that netbooks and notebooks are really one and the same.)

    Best Buy and other similar retailers are never going to get on board with this. Not only do they have a vested interest in getting their customers to buy something more expensive and with a higher margin, but they have these racks and racks of software that won't run on anything ARM-based (or for that matter, anything without a CD drive) nor on anything but fullblown Windows. On the other hand, Wal-mart seems to care less about that, and places like drugstores and deep-discount stores wouldn't care at all.

    If real netbooks (er, "smartbooks") steal even 5% of the laptop market, we'll see the Intel-based PC makers drop their prices in horror, saying "See? You can get a 'real' PC for just 50 dollars more" until they've repelled the threat and can go back to their $400 minimum price, and Microsoft will have to either keep XP alive yet another year or cut OEM prices on Windows 7, lest they give up more market share to Android and other flavors of Linux, giving ubiquitous, cheap computing a real foothold.

    In the meantime, these moves from Coby are a good start.