Laptops

Microsoft Aims to Wring Cash From Netbook Buyers

Did you save hundreds of dollars by buying a netbook or cheap laptop instead of a PC? If you did, Microsoft would like you to consider a US$30 laptop cooling base, which has a built-in USB-powered fan to keep your lap from sizzling beneath your Eee PC. While you're at it, have you considered working with a separate mouse instead of the trackpad on your downsized keyboard? For another $50 you can buy a Microsoft Arc Mouse Special Edition, which comes in four colors.

Estimates vary wildly as to how much netbooks have eaten into traditional laptop and desktop sales. But the safe answer is "a lot." The cheap mini laptops are one of the few bright spots in the PC industry, and no wonder: As consumers continue to see and hear reports that the economy is headed further downhill, it's a given that $300 netbooks will become even more popular -- and Microsoft will need to develop new products and revenue streams to appeal to this market segment. Microsoft makes considerably less money off the cheaper Windows versions installed on netbooks, so much so that Windows revenue is down 8 percent from last year. The company's add-on hardware gadgets are a clever way of getting more cash from netbook buyers: Let them buy an Asus netbook for the cheapest price they can find online. Then, tease them with inexpensive accessories.

There's a lesson here: People are afraid to spend money, but that doesn't mean they won't.

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