Netbook price hikes and the Eee PC effect

asus-eepc-150x150Like several other members of the PC Pro team, when the original 7in Eee PC arrived on the scene I was a huge fan. I wanted one, I debated ordering one, but I saw the huge waiting times others were experiencing and decided instead to hold fire. And I’m glad I did.

Netbook price hikes and the Eee PC effect

Since then the number of “netbooks” has multiplied, the original has got bigger and better, and there are still more on the horizon. Rumours of Lenovo (now confirmed – Ed) and Sony joining the fray may turn out to be unfounded, but it’s clear even the most sceptical of manufacturers has been forced to admit the little things have taken off in a way no one predicted.

But with each new model, each new name, the prices have been slowly creeping in the wrong direction, to the extent that what was once a pocket-money investment is now a slightly more laptop-sized dent in your wallet.

No one wants the 7in Eee any more, despite its appealing £200 price tag. It’s been made old news by its bigger brothers, and now we’re all raving about laptops costing £250, then £300, then more. It’s probably what Asus intended all along, as the margins on the Eee PC 701 must have been non-existent. Reel the public in with a jaw-dropping innovation, then gradually wean them onto dearer things.

Sadly others appear to be following. This week reports are emerging that the MSI Wind will soon be repairing its one major flaw by upgrading to a much-needed 6-cell battery. Good news? It appeared so. MSI had  pledged to bring this new battery in at the same original price, while reducing the 3-cell model accordingly.

But now it’s been confirmed that the bigger battery will cost you an extra $50, while the base spec version won’t be changing. Want more? Pay more.

acer1-proweb-150x150Acer’s Aspire One is also getting a new, much-needed 6-cell battery. Again, though, initial pre-order retail prices for the battery alone are sitting at $120, which will translate to £60 at the very least over here. Considering the undercutting of its competitors’ price was one of the Acer’s major strengths, a price rise is unwelcome.

Can they really have thought such low laptop prices were sustainable? Or, more likely, was this the plan all along? Sadly, many seem to be following the Asus model: get your initial product out there at a mouthwatering price that gets the punters salivating; then hike the price back up within a few months to a level at which profit can be made.

The Eee Box is the next out of the traps and, totally aside from the fact that I simply don’t believe the same market exists for an ultra-cheap PC as it clearly does for laptops, I’m afraid past events mean I’ll be taking the initial price tag with more than a pinch of salt.

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