Intel's sales chief talks Netbooks vs. notebooks

Unleashing innovation is key no matter what laptop category you're talking about--whether Netbooks or low-cost notebooks, said Intel's sales chief, ahead of this week's Computex trade show in Taipei.
I spoke briefly with Intel's marketing chief Sean Maloney--who is at Computex this week--on Monday night and asked him about how the wave of low-cost, thin notebooks based on his company's "ULV" (ultra-low-voltage) chips may affect Netbook sales.

New, aesthetically appealing, inexpensive notebooks, such as the $699 Acer Aspire Timeline, could make Netbooks less attractive, which pin a lot of their popularity on bargain-basement pricing.

Maloney said Intel is not going to fret over sacrificing one category of laptops because it needs to protect another.

"It's a loser mentality to not develop one segment because you're worried about the other," he said. "I think we have several years ahead of us where we can innovate the heck out of any of these categories without getting defensive about the other one. You just need to unleash innovation in all of the segments and see what happens."

And what about the new 3G-capable Netbooks--which Qualcomm had dubbed "smartbooks"--appearing at Computex from Asus and upstarts like Mobinnnova which are tied to the ARM processor and sold through telecommunications providers? "The more the merrier. The more innovation there will be. It's good for the industry to have competition," Maloney said.

Maloney continued. "We've shipped very large numbers of Netbooks through service providers in the last year and a half. Most of the service providers around the world have been shipping Netbooks for some time," he said. Hewlett-Packard, for instance, is now selling an Intel Atom-based Netbook at Verizon stores in the U.S. with 3G built in.

And, how important is the rollout of the new ULV chips? "This is a big announcement and it's kind of on par with the original announcements we made with the original Centrino," Maloney said.

"Fashion is going to play an ever-bigger role (in notebooks). It's like the cell phone industry four or five years ago. An incredible number of designs are coming out in the thin form factor."

"Very light, very thin, and incredibly long battery life," he said of the ULV laptops. Sounds a lot like the evolution of the Netbook--except it isn't called a Netbook. But, as Maloney said, may the best product category win.

BY Brooke Crothers

Brooke Crothers is a former editor at large at CNET, and has been an editor for the Asian weekly version of the Wall Street Journal. He writes for the CNET Blog Network, and is not a current employee of CNET. Contact him at Disclosure.

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