Netbooks and the emerging ‘smartbook’ category (great, another new term!) continue to be one of the hottest topics with Forrester clients. My recent outreach to those who have read my research in this space (Links below in case you’ve missed any of these) has created a lot of discussion and inquiries, and the market seems to be changing at a record pace. That is why this topic merits being one of the first covered in a new, timely product we’re creating – client virtual round tables.

To allow a many to many conversation and discussion along with deeper insights into this research, I’d like to invite you and your peers to a one-hour informational call on Friday 4 September at 11:30am ET.

During the call, I’ll present 25 minutes of material describing the ever-changing netbook landscape. The next 35 minutes will involve a facilitated Q & A discussion period, during which you’ll have the opportunity to ask me and others on the call any questions about the direction of this market plus attendee experiences, issues and success stories. We will not disclose which client companies are on the call, but we will collaboratively explore the topics like:

  • Where does Google’s Chrome OS fit into the picture? Google made a big splash with its Chrome OS announcement a couple of weeks back, and its clear that netbooks (or the new ‘smartbooks’ category) are a prime target for the firm. If the ARM architecture devices (as discussed in ‘Netbooks remain Adjunct PCs…For Now) gain traction, then Google has a clear ‘in’ here while Microsoft works out whether to offer a full Windows experience or just Windows CE on these devices. Success is by no means a given though – Google’s Android has been impressive, but it is a slightly different proposition to offer a PC-style OS on multiple devices (all of which may have multiple accessories and usage models)
  • How do you touch your consumers regardless of device? One interesting challenge that the proliferation of netbooks, smartbooks and other ‘portable computing’ devices raise is this: How do you track and personalize an experience when a consumer can reach you from 3-4 different devices during the day? Cookies wont work in many cases, a ‘cloud’ log-in works OK – provided the underlying scripts play well with multiple browsers and processing capabilities, ‘master’ data (contacts, photos, music, documents) could be on one, many or none of the used devices. Previously we’ve worried more about multiple users of the same device (particularly PCs or media players), but in technology optimistic households this could now be flipped on its head. There are definitely opportunities here for infrastructure and services which knit these fragments of online life back together.
  • Emerging technologies head for netbooks, but what will that do for the price proposition? Obviously everyone likes success and netbooks are one of the few successful growth categories in consumer technology at the moment (the other being smart phones), so it is to be expected that a proliferation of form factors, incorporation of new technology and service abound. Touch screens are already starting to appear on netbooks, as are slimmer form factors, very long life battery packs and beefed up graphics / video capabilities. The real issue here is not what you COULD do, but what preserves that ‘value’ perception that consumers have of the category and still allows differentiation from more flexible (generally more expensive) workhorse laptops – or to put it the other way around not cannibalize laptop sales with super-netbooks!

There is a cost associated with attending this call, so if you or anyone else at your organization is interested in attending, please let me know and I can work with your dedicated Forrester account Program Manager to get you signed up.