August 02, 2006, 1:31 PM — It's not often that I write a column about a single hardware product, but Acer's new laptop PC is like no other computer. So here I go.
On July 31, Acer's Aspire 9800 high-definition notebook became available in the United States. And to quote from the company's press release, "Aspire 9800 notebooks are available through Acer authorized resellers and retailers throughout North America with prices starting at $2,799."
Not exactly inexpensive, especially when the Sunday paper is chock full of consumer laptops beginning at a margin-free $599. But what sets the enterprise-targeted Aspire 9800 apart from the competition is its screen, its 20.1-inch screen to be exact. (By comparison, even Apple doesn't offer a notebook screen larger than a still impressive 17 inches.)
For a decade, the thought of using the notebook computer as a "desktop replacement" has been just beyond our collective reach. Its processor wasn't powerful enough, maximum RAM was too stingy, the hard drive was too small, the keyboard wasn't comfortable, and the screen just wasn't good enough to be stared at for 10 hours a day.
Within the last year or so, this has all changed. The 100-percent desktop replacement is a reality, albeit often an expensive one. But where on-the-go users once had both a desktop for power and a notebook for portability (and often their own desktop at home, too), the prowess of today's notebook computers wins. The first sign that this was no fluke occurred in May 2004 when notebooks first outsold desktops over the course of an entire calendar month.
For those who travel or who work at home, the notebook computer eliminates issues of data synchronization. And with laptop and data thievery making the nightly news broadcasts seemingly weekly, savvy integrators should be ready to offer multiple add-on solutions, including data encryption and even specialized software that disables various I/O ports --- including Wi-Fi and Ethernet --- based on where the laptop is being used at any moment; office, home, airport, hotel room, or Starbucks.
So what does one get for that $2,799? The Aspire 9800 sports an Intel Centrino Duo processor, NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 graphics, up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM at 667MHz, and 240GB Intel Matrix RAID-ready serial ATA hard drives. And that 20.1-inch widescreen LCD is a whopping 36 percent larger than Apple's (or anyone else's) 17 widescreen LCD.
As I said, I'm certainly not endorsing any one vendor over another. But this particular offering does show that innovation is still alive, and that opportunities for selling unique money-making solutions into SMB and enterprise environments still exist.