Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Laptops Get Crazy Cheap

Want a 15" laptop with a 2gh dual core CPU with 4GB of ram, a 500GB hard drive, a DVD burner and WiFi?  That'll be $499.  And it will weigh no more than about 4.5 pounds - typical for a mid-size business notebook.

Now, it's a Dell notebook here.  It doesn't include some useful options like Bluetooth (I use Blueetooth a lot on my laptop, but I don't know a single other person who does) and because it's a Dell it's going to be among the ugliest little machines that money can buy.  Also missing: lots of higher quality, performance optimized components that contribute a lot to speed and performance.

But let's be honest: WHO CARES?  For $499, this is a laptop any small business can afford and most parents would feel comfortable giving to their kids.  And, unless you're using Photoshop or are an extreme gamer, it's going to be more than adequate for just about everything you can think of.  Very impressive.

Even at the higher end of the market, prices seem to be plunging to new lows.  The lack of a compelling reason to buy a high performance PC has made it hard to keep average selling prices up.  What's interesting here is that at the top end of the market, PC prices are getting pretty low too.  A top-of-the-line Lenovo X201 with an SSD is just $1700.  It was only a couple of years ago that SSD-based laptop was over $3,000.

And here's something else interesting: Apple is smoking the competition at the high end.  Apple's SSD-based MacBook Air laptops are hundreds of dollars cheaper than their competition.  The same spec on an SSD from Apple is $300-500 less than Lenovo PCs.  The price differential is not so evident on the MacBook Pro, which is still priced comparably to other high end PCs from Lenovo.

Apple's share of the PC market is inching up - now 20% of the US retail - and as companies buy fewer and fewer laptops and expecting employees to bring their own, that aggressive pricing could help bring their share up further.  Also to look out for: Samsung, which as the leading maker of SSD chips, could leverage that to be aggressive themselves.

Not beautiful, but amazing value.  Flickr CC

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