Laptop Lapses As Must-Have Gadget; Does Anybody Really Want One For Xmas? - InformationWeek

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11/12/2008
11:51 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Laptop Lapses As Must-Have Gadget; Does Anybody Really Want One For Xmas?

Here's the thought that hit me last night, checking out the tabletop gadget displays at the Consumer Electronics Show's New York press preview: Where are all the laptops? And why don't I care that there are so few? The answer is obvious -- unless you covet a new MacBook, you're not crossing your fingers in hopes of finding a shiny new notebook computer under the tree. Smartphones, netbooks, and digital SLRs, definitely. But laptops? Yawn!

Here's the thought that hit me last night, checking out the tabletop gadget displays at the Consumer Electronics Show's New York press preview: Where are all the laptops? And why don't I care that there are so few? The answer is obvious -- unless you covet a new MacBook, you're not crossing your fingers in hopes of finding a shiny new notebook computer under the tree. Smartphones, netbooks, and digital SLRs, definitely. But laptops? Yawn!This isn't to denigrate the computing power you can secure in the latest generation of wide-screen, Blu-ray-capable, multimedia-on-steroids laptops. At the CES preview, AMD fielded an impressive display of notebooks powered by its Phenom quad-core desktop processors. All very cool looking.

On the positive side, I think we all take for granted that the latest laptops are no longer the pokey, desktop-PC stepchildren of only a few years ago. Indeed, it's precisely the fact that it's assumed that laptops are so predictably capable that makes them so unexciting.

What about my MacBook exception, I hear you asking? Those are clearly on the wish lists of those lucky (or oblivious) enough to believe that the gift-giving spigot is still gonna spout during this economically challenged Christmas season. I would argue that Apple products are desirable mostly for their form, not their function. As in, they're fashion accessories. (They also identify their owners as members of a club. Of course, as with owners of those "Members Only" jackets popular in the early 1980s, it's an extremely nonexclusive society.)

So my point really is that, clichéd as it sounds, laptops have jumped the shark. If you wanted a laptop last year, this holiday season what you're itching for instead is either an HP netbook or a Lenovo IdeaPad. (While the Asus EEE PC is definitely the leader in the lightweight laptop category, I'd submit that's something you're much more likely to purchase on your own dime, rather than angle to get as a gift. Sort of like, no one is pining for their spouse to buy them a Hyundai, even now that they're reliable.)

Smartphones of all stripes are also on the wish lists of just about everybody. Weekly intros are on tap from all the major manufacturers from now until the end of the year. CES itself, in Las Vegas in January, is likely to be a cell phone mecca, as handset vendors vie to outstrip Apple in the capabilities they can deliver, as compensation for the Jobsian coolness they're unlikely to be able to conjure up. (The BlackBerry Bold ain't bad, though, in that regard.)

Indeed, I expect that in 2009 the market dynamic will be that we'll hit the point where nobody will want to own just one cell phone, and we'll see many multiple-gadget carriers, in the way that today many corporate types carry a BlackBerry for work and an iPhone on the side for personal communications.

Anyway, so that's my big blog brain exercise for the day: Laptops are so commonplace no one gives them much thought anymore. Hard to argue, right?

So what are you asking Santa for? Leave a comment below, or shoot me an e-mail directly at [email protected].

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