iPhone Vs Netbook, which will be the biggest gaming machine?

This is absolutely fascinating stuff. We have had these two new gaming platforms burst onto the scene and instantly steal the limelight. Both are obviously going to be far bigger than some of the existing mainstream gaming platforms. In fact they are bringing a revolution to gaming. But which will be the biggest?

What they have in common is that they are both portable. So people will carry them around and use them in lots of places. They are not limited to one location like an Xbox or Playstation. They are also both cheap. You pay for the iPhone as part of your contract with your service provider, just like any other phone. And netbooks are going to be $100 purchases, less than the cost of a family night out.

The iPhone is by far the most portable of the two. And it is the one getting the most hype. However it is a standard from one manufacturer and all the other manufacturers are going to compete against it. Already Google Android is looking better in many ways and that will be supported by many manufacturers. But Apple are really pushing iPhone as a gaming device and as such it is booming like crazy, outperforming everyone’s expectations. It has really caught the psyche of the market. Steve Jobs marketing genius proven once again.

Netbook is that great device that comes about when manufacturers realise that they can make a product with greater utility by offering less. Notebooks had become ever more powerful, well beyond the needs of 90% of their owners. By stripping out all but the most essential features to create the netbook the industry have created a product that is a lot more use to a lot more people.

The netbook is a lot less portable than the iPhone. But at about a kilo in weight it is very portable indeed. And that extra weight gives you a big screen and a full size keyboard. Just about every student after primary level in the western world is going to have one of these. And they are going to be the only computer used in big quantities everywhere in the developing world. So they are going to sell in the hundreds of millions.

Of course neither the iPhone or the netbook is primarily a gaming device. A lot of them will be used for many years without ever seeing a game. But it is in human nature to play so most of them will. And the netbook has the advantage of tapping in to the huge legacy of PC gaming.

So as things stand it looks like netbooks are going to be the biggest gaming machine. By a significant multiple of what the iPhone achieves. In fact the netbook has the potential to be the biggest gaming platform of all. It should easily outperform all home consoles put together. It will be interesting to see this unfold.


  1. “$100 purchases, less than the cost of a family night out”

    Lucky family

  2. Honestly, Bruce, you talk the most frightful balls sometimes. Netbooks are currently more like $400 than $100, and barely powerful enough for most Flash games, never mind anything even slightly more sophisticated. They will NEVER reach $100 in our lifetime – the specs will be increased rather than the price cut, because the margins on anything selling for $100 are tiny and disproportionately vulnerable to currency fluctuations.

    (Also, Linux is far too geeky for most people to use for anything but the inbuilt applications, and including Windows on a netbook instantly drives the price far beyond $100 by itself.)

  3. cliffski, to answer your points, one by one.
    1) Netbooks are already $200 http://crave.cnet.co.uk/laptops/0,39029450,49297248-3,00.htm , with cheaper ARM processors, mass production, Moores law and upcoming low cost LED displays the $200 will be very easily doable. If you look at the OLPC programme you will see where cost is with current technology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child
    2) As for power, several gaming devices already use ARM and the one going into netbooks will be quite a bit more powerful. OK they won’t run top end 360 games, but there is a lot that they will run.
    3) If a netbook has specification creep it becomes a notebook! The whole rationale of netbooks is that less is more.
    4) Of course they can sell complex electronic items for $100. How much are mobile phones, DVD players and Nintendo DSs?
    5) Linux is not too geeky. The Ububtu variant is aimed at the average user. As it is free it keeps the cost of the system down. Already it has lots of Netbook users.
    6) Microsoft have responded by offering XP very cheaply for netbooks. But they have put a cap on processing power and system memory.

    So not frightful balls.

  4. Oh, $200 is certainly do-able. But $200 is a vastly, vastly different pricepoint from $100, which was the number you actually quoted. $100 will never happen, certainly not in the next 10 years, and I’ll happily bet you $1,000 on that. Deal?

  5. Blah blah. People have been promising $100 netbooks for at least two years, only to end up punting them out for $300. The $98 Mininote was supposed to be out in October, but still hasn’t materialised for sale anywhere.

    I’m offering $1,000 that we still haven’t actually seen a netbook capable of playing Bejewelled on store shelves (including online stores) TEN years from now. Are you putting your money where your mouth is, or not?

  6. OLEDs are going to make a significant difference to cost. They are much cheaper to manufacture, they are far thinner and lighter and they use a lot less power, so batteries will be much smaller.
    Processing power and memory becomes cheaper due to Moores law. And free software can be used. There is no need for a hard drive because applications and data are held in the cloud. Lots of manufacturers will be competing against each other.

    These things are going to be very cheap. Bejewelled will run on a sub $100 far, far sooner than TEN years from now.

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