Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I couldn't resist commenting on Joe Wilcox's blog article "Sony shows how to lift Windows PCs out of the low-price doldrums" http://www.betanews.com/joewilcox/article/Sony-shows-how-to-lift-Windows-PCs-out-of-the-lowprice-doldrums/1265139557 , which is the antithesis of the content on my blog:

Clayton Hallmark
Feb 2, 2010 - 5:03 PM [EST]

Well, Joe, you make a good argument, but you got it right the first time: What we are seeing is commoditization.

I have a whole blog dedicated to this, to the Alpha 400 and other cheapEST computers. If you live in New York City, you can prove to yourself, by visual observation, that maintaining ASP in PCs is the Impossible Dream. Go into any of the hole-in-the-wall cheap-electronics storefronts in Midtown (mostly) and you will see mini-laptops -- not worthy of the name, some would say -- that you can buy for around $100 any old day, no contracts and no strings attached. This might be true in other big cities as well, or soon will be.

There are literally thousands of sources for these cheap ARM-based notebooks in mainland China, hundreds of *manufacturers* even, all making basically the same no-name product -- that is, usually with no brand-name at all. Some have even set up shop in the USA, online and on the street.

Cheap products for the Chinese market can be sold cheaply here as well. They will flood the market and drag all ASPs down with them. You can even order these direct from China, often with the seller paying your shipping cost, on a single-unit basis, and your payment is even protected by something similar to PayPal (no delivery, no money). Unstoppable. (I am not giving my web address, but I had to respond to the very interesting article.)



"Sony shows how to lift Windows PCs out of the low-price doldrums"

"Windows PC vendors can effectively raise selling prices -- not that it will be easy, particularly as long as they sell netbooks. One Windows PC OEM shows the way. Today, Sony announced new E-series laptops packing Intel i3 and i5 core processors and boasting, brashy colored exteriors. The $799.99 price is about $326 more than the average selling price of laptops sold at US retail in fourth quarter, according to NPD data."

"Selling Prices in Free Fall"

"US retail average selling prices fell for both Macs and Windows PCs during 2009, but for different reasons. For Windows PCs ..."

"Their wicked toll: In fourth quarter, notebook ASPs (including netbooks) declined to $473 from $604 a year earlier. Desktop ASP: $488 down from $533 year over year. Thank you, netbooks. May you burn in hell."

"By comparison, also during fourth quarter, Mac notebook ASP was $1,359 down from 1,507 a year earlier. Interesting trend: Mac laptop ASPs also fell below desktops. The desktop ASP was $1,366 down from $1,471 a year earlier."

"To Acer, Dell, HP and other Windows OEMs pushing cheap PCs, I say this: If you don't offer a premium brand with premium features at a reasonable premium price, your customers' next computer purchase will be a Mac. Get it?"

Again, Joe Wilcox's article is well worth the time to read it, and you can do so here: http://www.betanews.com/joewilcox/article/Sony-shows-how-to-lift-Windows-PCs-out-of-the-lowprice-doldrums/1265139557


  1. I enjoyed your blog and I generally agree with what you are saying, but why do you call Alpha 400 and several other MIPS-based computers "ARM-based"? ARM and MIPS are two different RISC architectures - see http://arm.com and http://mips.com. Here is how Microprocessor Report 11/16/09 position ARM, MIPS and Intel:

    "Historically, ARM tends to have the smallest, lowest-power processors, whereas MIPS tends to excel in high performance. ... Lately, ARM has been reaching toward higher performance, because that is where ARM's biggest market (mobile phones) is going. Meanwhile, MIPS is migrating toward lower power, because that's where its biggest market (consumer electronics) is going. At the same time, both companies fear encroachment by the x86, because mobility is where Intel's biggest market (personal computing) is going."

    Another quote about MIPS-based laptops:


    "The MIPS Processor and the $150 Linux Netbook

    Back at the start of the millennium I was working for a large government contractor supporting an agency of the U.S. federal government. This agency was a major customer of SGI. Many of the scientists who worked there had very nice SGI workstations and some of the SGI servers I supported were, to say the least, impressive technology at the time. At the time SGI systems, one and all, had 64-bit MIPS processors under the hood. SGI spun off MIPS Technologies in 1998 and stopped selling new MIPS based systems in 2005.

    The technology that once powered supercomputers now is found in embedded devices. In recent years both MIPS32 and MIPS64 cores have been found powering everything from routers to the Sony PlayStation. About a year ago the first MIPS32 based netbooks appeared, mainly in Europe and Asia. MIPS64 based netbooks are now on the market as well and are competing with ARM processors for the low end of the next generation of super low cost machines. We are talking about systems that reportedly will sell for as little as US $130 and which have already sold for as little as US $149. Say hello to the $150 netbook."

    MIPS processors are used not only in super-cheap laptops (like Alpha 400, Lemote or like
    http://www.gdium.com/en/product/liberty1000 ) but also in new Chinese supercomputers:

    China picks MIPS for super-duper super


    People’s Processor: Embrace China’s Homegrown Computer Chips


    China's Loongson Processor Effort

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