Top Tech Companies Jump Into 'Netbook' Market

A new breed of low-priced laptops called netbooks have been thriving during the downturn — so well, in fact, that many high-tech companies are scrambling to adapt.

The responses by these high-tech companies will be a hot topic at this week's Consumer Electronics Show. They include not only new netbooks — which typically cost $300 to $500, and often use Intel Corp.'s Atom chip — but products that address shortcomings of the new category and other portable PCs.

Netbooks, for example, tend not to be very good at displaying graphics and playing videos. So Hewlett-Packard Co., for example, on Tuesday plans to announce a $699 laptop that beefs up those capabilities with chips from Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

H-P's new dv2 model is less than one inch thick and offers many features found in higher-end products such as Apple Inc.'s MacBook, which starts at $1,800.

Another problem with netbooks, and other laptops, is that they tend to start up too slowly and run out of power too quickly.

Phoenix Technologies Ltd. is trying to address those issues with a downloadable layer of software, called HyperSpace, that lets users do simple chores such as calling up Web sites without waiting for an operating system to boot up.

The activity is the latest sign that technology segments are converging at an accelerating rate, driven by competitive pressures that the recession is amplifying.

Companies including Phoenix are trying to help netbooks and other portables work as simply as cellphones, just as makers of those pocket-size devices are improving their ability to tap into the Web.

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