Widescreen notebooks arent just for watching Lord of the Rings on DVD anymore, PC makers say.
Businesses are beginning to request notebooks with widescreens, which are popular with consumers thanks to a greater 16:10 aspect ratio that allows them to display more information than a standard screen, kicking off a new trend that analysts say will help convert the notebook market almost completely to the more-rectangular displays over the next year or two.
Some notebook makers, responding to customers demands and also to falling widescreen panel prices, have already begun offering widescreen business machines.
But they will soon switch over their corporate lines completely, allowing businesses aiming for productivity gains to choose from a broader set of models, some of which are more portable than standard-screen machines. Others simply offer more screen real-estate, analysts and PC makers say.
“We expect the entire market to transition to widescreen [notebooks] over the next year or two,” said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC. “This is the sort of feature thats universally appealing, for business workers and consumers.”
“Its a trend were continuing to see increased demand for…as we talk to customers,” said Brett McAnally, product marketing manager for Dell Inc.s Latitude corporate notebooks.
Widescreen notebooks businesses productivity gains come from the ability to display multiple document pages side by side, which requires less scrolling, as well as the ability to run multiple applications and arrange their respective windows to be visible simultaneously.
While most notebook widescreen panels will come in sizes ranging from 10.6 inches to 17 inches, industry watchers appear to agree that 14-inch or 15.4-inch widescreen models will be the most popular, followed by 12-inch and 17-inch widescreens.
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Office Workers, Frequent Travelers
Office workers are likely to receive 14-inch or 15.4-inch machines, while smaller numbers of engineers or even accountants, who require graphics muscle or room for spreadsheets, might be more likely to receive 17-inch widescreen machines.
Frequent travelers are most likely to receive machines with 12-inch wide screens.
“Were going to see more of the higher-end panels, with particular emphasis on 15.4-wide and 17-wide over next few years,” Shim predicted.
Meanwhile, 14-inch widescreens are likely to be the most populous, followed by 15.4-inch displays, due to their pricing and availability, said William Diehl, vice president of product marketing at Gateway.
The “14-inch widescreen is going to be the dominant form factor in terms of volume, from a price perspective and a design perspective,” Diehl predicted. “14-wide is an awesome form factor—it has the width of a 15-inch but the depth of a 12-inch.”
Meanwhile, a 15.4-inch widescreen is roughly an inch shorter than a 15-inch, allowing it to fit better into tight spaces.
Many notebook makers either now offer or are planning to roll out 15.4-inch widescreen notebooks for their business customers.
Dell, based in Round Rock, Texas, offers a 15.4-inch screen on its Latitude D810 and a 12.1-inch widescreen in its lightweight Latitude X1.
Gateway, of Irvine, Calif., offers 14-inch, 15.4-inch and 17-inch widescreens in its corporate line notebook line.
Following a recent product refresh that brought the widescreens to its business notebook line, “80 percent of our professional customers went to wide [screens] almost immediately,” Diehl said. Thus “were already shipping predominantly widescreen. Thats what folks are looking to use.”
Lenovo Group Ltd. will jump into the fray next month with the ThinkPad Z Series, which will offer 14-inch and 15.4-inch wide screens.
However, not everyone agrees just how much better even bigger screens are.
Despite being popular among PC-buying consumers and Apple Computer Inc.s PowerBook mavens, the 17-inch widescreen display will adopted by businesses more slowly, due to priorities they put on size and weight, some PC makers say.
Given the size of their screens, 17-inch models are larger and heavier than their 14-inch or 15.4-inch stable mates.
“We continue to hear from our corporate customers that size and weight are critical,” McAnally said. Thus “We dont have an offering [with a 17-inch screen] because we dont believe theres significant business in that space.”
Dell, whose product design plans can be more conservative than other vendors at times, appears more likely to add smaller widescreen models first.
However, if demand for a 17-inch screen business Latitude were to reach a high enough level, the company would offer one, McAnally indicated.
For its part, Gateway says its 17-inch widescreen Gateway 680 notebook, which weighs 7.7 pounds, has made inroads in government and also accounting, where people like its built-in numeric keypad, Diehl said.
“Id characterize the 17-wide as being one of our performance products. The mainstream is going to be more the 14-inch and the 15.4-inch primarily because of glass [or panel] cost,” he said. However, “I do see 17-inch being extremely successful.”
With 17-inch screen notebooks more fully populating the market, the next step for notebook makers could be to develop 19-inch screen models. Panel makers are expected to offer 19-inch notebook screens in the future, Diehl said.
However, its not clear how quickly notebook makers will take them on.
“I have to expect people will develop notebooks on that [screen] size,” Diehl said. “But the jury is still out for me. At that point, you get away from notebook. It probably becomes less of a notebook and more of a small form factor desktop.”