The Future Of Mobile Tech: Next Year's Notebooks Will Be Worth Waiting For - InformationWeek

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The Future Of Mobile Tech: Next Year's Notebooks Will Be Worth Waiting For

The pace of hardware innovation is due to speed up in 2008, as notebooks get bigger, smaller, and a lot more useful.

Good things come to those who wait, says the proverb. Right now, this is very appropriate if you're in the market for a new notebook. Unless you're in a hurry, you may want to keep your wallet in your pocket -- there are new technologies around the corner you won't want to miss.

While for a few years, the pace of innovation seemed to be slowing down, the year 2008 may be different. Conversations with several experts on industry trends, and a deep dive into the conventional wisdom of published reports, have yielded some interesting prognostications:

  • Big notebooks are getting bigger
  • Notebook displays are going Hollywood
  • Small notebooks will continue to shrink
  • Wireless use will continue to expand
  • It's getting easier to be green
  • Storage is going solid-state
  • More notebooks may mean less Windows

    This spurt of technological creativity may be due, at least in part, to the increasing popularity of notebooks. Experts expect that desktop PCs will still outsell laptops in 2008 -- but by less than they did in 2007. Laptop sales are growing 19 percent a year, says the analyst firm Gartner, Inc., and 2010 will actually be the tipping point when notebooks finally outsell desktops. Corporations and emerging economies are still buying desktops, says Gartner Research vice president Leslie Fiering, a mobile computing specialist, "but for consumers we're seeing the crossover."

    So what kind of technology shifts can you expect for next year's notebooks?

    Big Notebooks Are Getting Bigger

    While an emphasis on mobility means that the downsizing of notebooks will continue over the next year, there's news at the other end of the spectrum as well: notebooks are getting bigger.

    The trend toward these supersized portables is already clear in notebooks like the Acer 9810 (17.1 pounds), the Dell XPS M2010 (18.3 pounds), and the HP Pavilion HDX (15.5 pounds). All three have 20.1-inch screens and offer features like increased storage (320GB and up) with RAID controllers, Dolby surround sound, remote controls, and the kind of graphics support and video performance specs that will make gamers drool -- at prices that start around $3,000. These machines all run Intel T7000-series Centrino Core 2 Duo processors, with power consumption in the 34-watt range, typical for notebooks, but not exactly low-power. That and the power demands of the huge screens will mean they'll seldom be unplugged.

    They'll replace desktops, says Gartner's Fiering, and they'll be used primarily as media centers and gaming machines: "We're seeing increasingly cool features in these big machines: TV tuners, personal video recorders, better audio and graphics. And the graphics performance and the compute power continue to make these high-end PCs great gaming machines."

    Quad-core notebooks will also emerge as a category over the next year. The pioneering models like Clevo's D900C (rebranded in the U.S. as the Sager NP9260 and XtremeNotebooks' Xtreme 917V), are built on Intel's Core 2 Quad processors and come with 17-inch screens and dual graphics cards. With a full weight of 12 pounds and price tags that begin well above $2,000, these notebooks are not for every user, but gamers are paying attention.

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