The PC market is likely to see steep growth in the years ahead, similar to the growth witnessed in the phone market after the introduction of mobile phones, an Intel executive said on Thursday.
In the same way telephones moved from one per house to one per room to one for each person, PCs are also becoming personalized devices, said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager, of Intel's Mobile Platforms Group, at a meeting in Bangalore.
"It could be a notebook or a netbook or a mobile Internet device (MID)," Eden said.
Selling PCs has become a "consumer game", focused as much on the elegance and sleekness of the device, as its performance and other specifications, Eden said.
In most markets, affordability is not an issue for marketers of PCs, but the "desirability" of the computers, Eden said. To become desirable to a large segment of potential users who can afford PCs, the devices have to have content, user interface, and applications that they can relate to, he added.
This optimistic view of the market may hold true for mature markets, but not in emerging markets like India where 10,000 rupees (US$200) is seen as the magic price level for a reasonably configured PC to take off in large volumes.
Netbook prices are likely to come down because of economies of scale, said Eden, but he was not willing to forecast when the price would be below US$200.
Eden expects that demand in emerging markets could get a push through subsidies, for example if telecommunications service providers offer netbooks at a discount or free as part of a service plan.
Intel originally thought demand for netbooks powered by its Atom processor would first ramp up in emerging markets, because of the low-cost of these devices, Eden said. Currently about 85 percent of the sales of netbooks are in mature markets, Eden said.
A lot of netbook customers in these markets want to go beyond basic browsing and communications to applications like storing movies, which led vendors to include large hard-disk drives, and in some cases Microsoft's Windows operating system, Eden said.
To cut netbook prices, vendors in emerging markets can, for example, use the Moblin Linux operating system, backed by Intel, which is good enough for basic applications like browsing and communications, he added.