As the computer industry matures, the definition of what exactly constitutes a PC continues to change. Hence, a host of new categories of computers will flood the market this year.
For starters, there will likely be more of a fusion between mobile and desktop machines in 1999, Enderle says. Powerful, fully loaded notebooks with large screens and keyboards, and mighty processors that are perfect for both mobile and office environments will rapidly emerge. "They'll just be very, very big laptops, but they'll perform similarly to your desktop machine," Enderle explains.
A glimpse of this new product category can be seen in notebooks like those in Dell Computer's Inspiron 7000 series. Released in mid-1998, these high-end multimedia notebook computers for personal, home office and small-business use boast 15-inch screens, digital video-disk drives, 300 MHz Pentium II processors and hard drives of up to 8GB. They're designed for business users who demand high performance and lots of memory--and they're not for the small business on a budget. The Inspiron 7000 series notebook computers start at $2,599.
In addition, watch for a new breed of notebook computer designed for portable use only. These notebooks are meant for easy transportation from home to work and back but don't incorporate the petite size and weight requirements necessary on the road. More of a suitcase-sized model, these computers will be competitively priced at $1,000 or less, offer lots of battery life, and contain basic business productivity and communications features. Expect to see them to come out near year-end, Enderle says.
The good news: The emergence of these new computer categories means more choices than ever. The bad news: It makes for more market confusion. That means now more than ever, you must evaluate your unique business requirements. Then look for the category of products on the market that meets your specific business needs and budget.
The stream of SOHO products is expected to continue flowing into computer stores this year. Nearly all the major vendors are planning to release computer software, hardware, networking products and peripherals for the small-business market. With so much variety, it doesn't make sense to settle for an almost-right solution designed for someone else's business. The best advice you'll hear all year? Shop around.