I've been thinking about this a lot. We have netbooks that cost less than $400 and are actually more capable than many of the notebooks we gave to folks three years ago. This week Acer launched the AspireRevo, a desktop product using the Nvidia ION graphics platform, which should sell at business volumes for around $300 and is actually competitive with the desktop hardware we are likely paying far more for today.
This is starting to bug me. We have this amazing new technology that costs less to buy and operate -- it typically requires about one-third the power, -- is vastly more portable, takes up far less desk space, is far quieter, and is generally vastly more attractive than what we currently give employees. And, in a market screaming for better values, we don't have anything in this class available for business yet.
Let's talk about the game-changing possibilities of products like the AspireRevo and similar netbooks, what they need for business, and why more of us should be asking for them.
Turning a Netbook/Nettop into a Notebook/Desktop PC
What the Acer AspireRevo showcases is the compelling combination of Intel's Atom processor and Nvidia's ION graphics system. Most Net-type products have very limited graphics, which reduces substantially their capability generally and drops it below minimums for day-to-day use. ION contributes to this graphics capability, and the combination of Atom and ION appears to provide that perfect storm kind of product that is small, good-looking, quiet, capable and inexpensive.
At about the size of a hardcover book, or less than 1/16 the size of many mini-tower desktops, the AspireRivo is both amazingly small and attractive. This is the desktop equivalent of the MacBook Air with one big difference -- a purchase price between $300 and $400. The product has a full port out with both VGA and HDMI connectors to monitors, 6 USB ports, an eSata port and a four-in-one card reader. It's the only one announced with this ION technology so far.
The product can be bolted to a wall or behind a monitor, making it ideal for small cubicles, health care, hotel executive centers, call centers and receptionists in particular and desirable to most anyone who doesn't currently need a high-end PC (only about 5 percent to 7 percent of employees need a high-end PC, and that might be overstated).
So why no business lines?
Security is Lacking: Missing TPMs, Card Readers
Part of the problem is that there are no netbooks with Trusted Platform Modules (TPMs). Self-encrypting drives have been a bid requirement, even though they often aren't actually turned on, for business PCs for some time now. In addition, no one has yet brought out one of these products with a biometric reader or smart card reader integrated within them, making it difficult for them to sell into many shops that have security concerns at least as great as their energy-conservation concerns. There are no business lines that have this technology yet and lines come with special services that increasingly differentiate a consumer PC from a business PC. And, finally, the class typically doesn't come with optical drives, which are also generally built into most PC bids.
However, the security technology can be added very quickly and inexpensively. Putting netbooks in business lines is simply a product-manager decision, and given how we generally are getting applications and updates via the cloud today; do we really need an optical drive anymore?
Rethinking the Desktop
I'm convinced we are at the beginning of the third rebirth of the personal computer and that we desperately need to reduce the complexity on the desktop to get costs down, and increase reliability. I think it is time to rethink the desktop and look at products like the AspireRevo and instead of asking "why?" for businesses, ask "why not?