Skip to main content

New Laptop Trends for 2010

Image used with permission by copyright holder

We are now in a PC launch window, each of the major vendors will release new products as we approach June. Among them, I see three broad trends. Two are identified by HP’s recent line refresh, and one has more to do with Apple. We’ll talk about all three and focus a little on the third, which could mean that laptops as we know them are about to change radically over the next three years.

Trend One: Metals, Finishes, and Apple Competitive Appearances Are In

While we have seen vendors try to copy Apple products at a lower price point in the past, with these new HP lines you can start to see HP both fully emulate Apple and try to improve on the theme. This is part of an embrace-and-improve strategy that resulted from Apple’s ability to increasingly define the design language for the industry. If you look at HP’s business lines, they are similar to MacBooks in terms of metal used, though they have harder lines, darker colors, and lower price points for a given performance level. In addition, they have security features like fingerprint readers and Trusted Platform Modules that Apple computers lack. They have also increased their use of liquid metal finishes, which better resists fingerprints and tend to resist scratching better, plus virtually all but the largest offerings have a very thin profile.

Consumer products now have similar cosmetic features, and are starting to include some additional security as an option and continue with color choices. (Though retailers likely will only stock one of the colors, suggesting if you want a color choice you’ll likely have to buy online, similar to what you often have to do with the iPod lines that come in a wide variety of colors.) The colors have a very rich look to them, and will be available in black cherry, champagne, and Sonoma red.

Even the HP netbooks, which were already aggressively based on designs focused on women, push that envelope further and now focus more on young women. HP is feeling the pressure to compete with the iPad in terms of battery life, as some come with six-cell batteries and potential battery life that approaches eight hours. The two new colors are preppy pink and white crystal. The flagship signature Mini 110 uses images designed by Studio Tord Boontje.

Trend Two: AMD and Graphics

AMD has historically been competitive on the desktop, but almost considered a joke when it comes to laptop computers. That changes this cycle, as around half of these new HP products are using AMD technology. Part of the reason for this is the second part of this trend includes a heavy move to graphics performance in both consumer and business lines. This is because, increasingly, people appear to favor doing things that use the GPU better like movie playback and transcoding movies so they can play them on their cell phones or other portable players, photo editing, and media consumption (including games).

These products are increasingly coming with higher resolution, built-in webcams, and the premium part of HP’s line, the Envy, is the first to use AMD’s Eyefinity technology, so you can drive up to three monitors off of it. In addition, the Envy is heavily media focused, with Beat- by-Dre-based sound capability, and built-in subwoofers (there is something kind of weird about a subwoofer in a laptop, however it does put new meaning into the old Intel tagline “put excitement into your lap.”)

Trend Three: With an iPad, I Don’t Need No Fricken’ Laptop

The third trend became evident at the recent Atom announcement by Intel. Three of the analysts in the room were using iPads and wireless keyboards, rather than notebook computers. They reported that for notes and meetings, the iPads worked fine, and they had started to leave their laptops in the office or at home and now carry the tablets instead. Analysts touch a massive amount of media, and given two of the analysts were from Gartner and the other, Tim Bajarin, arguably one of the most influential consumer analysts in the world, they set trends for both business and consumer markets.

Advantages of the iPad are extreme portability and battery life (all day), which trumped any notebook they currently have access to. That includes Apple’s MacBooks, which suggests a cannibalization problem for Apple, but a competitive displacement problem for everyone else. Disadvantages of the iPad are problems with syncing with Exchange, lack of Flash support, and the poorly made Apple cover for the iPad (it appears rushed and of poor quality). All were seen as relatively trivial and, with the exception of the Flash support, likely to be corrected over time.

A bigger problem I noted was that the iPad doesn’t run Office, nor does it run most of the existing business applications. The first turned out to be a minor issue, and the analysts were willing to learn an Apple application instead. Business applications are mostly hosted today, and folks figure they can wait until they are on a PC to use them. While it is a bigger problem, it wasn’t a deal breaker. By the way, the wireless keyboard was seen as vastly better than the Apple dock, because everyone appeared to prefer to use the iPad in landscape rather than portrait mode if you want to try this.

We may be seeing the beginning of the end for the laptop computer, and this likely goes a long way to helping explain one of the big reasons HP recently bought Palm (I’m expecting an HP branded Palm- designed webOS based HP tablet in a few months).

Wrapping Up

Better, faster, cheaper is a constant in the PC market, and one of the things that seems to make this market somewhat unique. However, this round, we have the potential of a revolution coming in a class of product I doubt many thought would really challenge the laptop this soon. This is just the start of what should prove to be an interesting hardware cycle, with Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, Sony and others due to refresh products shortly and more tablets coming. We’ll be busy covering the launches, and hopefully you’ll have some money left to buy this stuff.

Editors' Recommendations

Rob Enderle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rob is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. Before…
4 high-end features Windows laptops still have over MacBooks
Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 9 top down view showing tablet and pen.

Apple's MacBook lineup has exploded over the last several years, with its Silicon chipsets offering class-leading performance and efficiency. The MacBook Pro, in particular, is faster than many Windows laptops, longer-lasting than most, and has an excellent mini-LED display. There are many good reasons to choose a MacBook over a Windows laptop in today's market.

But all isn't lost for the Windows platform. Even aside from the upcoming Snapdragon X Elite laptops that look to be competitive, there are still some more basic features that you can only get on a Windows laptop at the moment. Here are the four that I keep coming back to.
Windows Hello

Read more
Get this HP 17-inch laptop for $300 instead of the usual $660
The HP 17-inch laptop against a white background.

Seventeen-inch laptops toe the line between portability and size, making them more expensive than your average laptop. Some of the best 17-inch laptops can easily cost you thousands of dollars. Luckily, there HP has come up with a very budget-friendly solution in the form of the HP laptop 17z, and while it's not one of the best laptops on the market, it is an excellent budget-oriented choice for a 17-inch laptop. Even better, HP currently discounts it down to $300 from the usual $560 price tag, which is a significant $260 off.

Why you should buy the HP Laptop 17z
As the name implies, the HP Laptop 17z has a large 17.3-inch screen running a 1920 x 1080 resolution and can hit a peak brightness of 250nits, which isn't a lot, but it's good enough for a well-lit room, especially with its anti-glare coating. You could potentially upgrade to a touch version of the screen for $30, but since it would knock the resolution down to 1600 x 900, it's not worth it, especially with a larger 17.3-inch screen. What will be worth the upgrade is taking the networking option from the Wi-Fi5 and Bluetooth 4.2 standard up to the Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 standard for an extra $20, which will make sure your laptop has a strong connection for streaming or doing online meetings and will be future-proof for at least the next 5-6 years.

Read more
One of Lenovo’s most popular laptops is 40% off right now
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 laptop, opened with a colorful wallpaper on the screen.

Lenovo often has some of the best laptop deals around, and that’s no different today. Currently you can buy the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 laptop for $2,135, and it’s packed with great hardware. According to Lenovo, it usually costs $3,559 so you’re saving 40% here. Lenovo’s estimated value system can be a little optimistic so the actual original price may be different, but what we do know is that the new low price is fantastic for these specs. Here’s what to expect from the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11.

Why you should buy the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 is well-designed for business use. It has a 13th-generation Intel Core i7-1365U processor with a huge 32GB of memory so it’s perfect for extensive multitasking. There’s also 1TB of SSD storage which is great for storing your many files without needing to rely on cloud storage.

Read more