Dominance in the emerging netbook category could be subject to an old, overlooked play by manufacturers:software bundling. Bundling is as old as the computer market but an adverse reaction to so-called shovel-ware has cast a pall over the practice. Despite this, well thought out bundles designed for persistently connected netbooks could be a determining factor in the long term success or failure of this category.
Let’s look at where netbooks are today. Superficially, most of the news driving netbook coverage has been entirely too predictable and based on the mundane: manufacturers releasing machines with the latest processor and core logic; incremental enhancements such as larger keyboards and screens, the addition of discrete graphics, or support of WAN cellular modems and deals with national cell networks.
What’s been overlooked; however, is usability and suitability, areas where netbooks designed around one or more cloud-based software suites can assume leadership positions.
Today, netbooks are not pitched at corporate IT except to the extent that corporate IT has deployed individual test systems or in limited evaluations of web based applications. The market netbook manufacturers miss right now are medium sized organizations using Software as application-based solutions (SAAS) such as those provided by entities like SalesForce.com. And there’s a lot of light space in Sales Force.com’s cloud, because it’s never tried to be an office automation software supplier.
This is where Google or (a mightily revamped Microsoft) can shine through. Both have stakes in office automation software. And Google’s cloud-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation graphics have been evaluated by most major corporations (which represents the figurative pot of gold at the end of the cloud-based SAAS and netbook rainbows).
Google may be the most obvious supplier of such a suite, but even that company has patchy holes in its cloud cover when it comes to software as an application. While Google has a strong SAAS suite, there’s enough wiggle room in its strategy for other companies to squeeze in and grab Google while profiting from the net book phenomena. Specifically the opportunity for Google is sales automation software that includes rugged contact management with rock solid synchronization.
Another part of the equation belongs to the cell networks. By definition, persistent connectivity is the backbone of mobile workforces equipped with netbooks. Any hardware maker that wants to succeed in netbooks will need a cell network partner. And it’s those partners who can assemble the alliances needed for an effective cloud-based strategy to large, medium-sized or other businesses.—Jim Forbes 09/13/2009