Lenovo is joining the low-cost notebook parade with a $399 laptop.
On Aug. 4, Lenovo released its first low-cost notebook, or "netbook," called the IdeaPad S10, which will have a 10.2-inch wide display and use Intel's Atom processor. Lenovo, best known for its business-class ThinkPad notebooks, first introduced the IdeaPad line in January as a way to make headway in the red-hot consumer laptop market.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10 will be available in October.
For now, Lenovo and other PC vendors, such as Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic and Asustek Computer, are targeting this new class of netbooks at consumers and users in emerging markets that need an inexpensive way to access the Internet. Some analysts believe that the netbook will also make inroads in the business market as a low-cost, easier-to-handle traveling companion.
Dell is also planning to enter the netbook market and it could have its low-cost laptop ready within the next month.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10 also comes at a time when Intel is looking to build out an entirely new market based around its low-cost, low-power Atom processors. While Intel and its executives have talked glowingly about the netbook market, it's not clear whether netbooks will take off in the volume that Intel and its OEM partners expect.
IDC has predicted that the low-cost PC market will hit $3 billion in revenues in 2012, just a small fraction of the overall PC market, which is expected to reach $286 billion in 2008.
"At this point, you can expect all the major players to get into this market," said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC. "The question is, What is their level of commitment and what is their target audience and how much do they expect it to grow? A lot of the companies I talk to say, 'We're doing this as a defensive measure and we're concerned about the success of some of the more aggressive players that have entered this market.' The coals are also being stoked by Intel, which has a pretty heavy investment in the Atom processor."
In addition to Intel, Via Technologies is also offering a chip, the VIA Nano, for this netbook market and HP has tapped an older version of a Via processor for its Mini-Note PC. Intel has also used a version of its Celeron microprocessor. The other major x86 chip maker, Advanced Micro Devices, has signaled that it does not plan to enter the netbook market just yet, but AMD has left the door open to jumping in with its own processor at a later date.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10 will use the Intel Atom N270 processor-1.6GHz, 512KB of Level 2 cache, and 533MHz front side bus-and the Intel 945 GSE chip set, along with the 10.2-inch screen and built-in Wi-Fi technology. The $399 model will offer 512MB RAM and 80GB of hard disk drive capacity, while the $499 model boosts the memory up to 1GB RAM and 160GB capacity.
Unlike the HP Mini-Note laptop, which offers several versions of Linux as an operating system, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 will come with only Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, which is not surprising, as Lenovo has not pushed Linux as aggressively as Dell or some of the other major PC vendors. The 10-inch screen of the IdeaPad S10 is also larger than the typical 7- or 8-inch screens that other OEMs have offered so far.
While most of the first-generation netbook laptops have similar features, Shim said, Lenovo has moved to differentiate the IdeaPad S10 from other notebooks.
"A lot of these products are the same," Shim said. "The difference here is that the configurations from Lenovo are a little more aggressive. They have a little larger screen than some of the others, a bigger hard drive and a fairly aggressive price point."