Page last updated at 00:29 GMT, Sunday, 11 January 2009

Texting a signal of wider trends

Texting with your thumb overturns years of practice, it is claimed

Ask anyone over 25 what digit they use to ring a doorbell and most people will pop up their index finger.

But ask a youngster and they are much more likely to extend a thumb.

"Where texting is happening they use the thumb," Anand Chandrasekher, head of Intel's ultra mobility group, told BBC News at CES.

For Mr Chandrasekher the change from index finger to thumb overturns decades of practice.

It shows the growing importance of mobile technology and how it can shift behaviour and who will be the big users of it in the future.

"The next generation of computer users is kids and the way they use it is totally different," he said, adding that the mania for texting, mobiles and the net was a symptom of a larger shift.

"If you look at what's happening underneath we think it's about the internet and the internet becoming pervasive," said Mr Chandrasekher. "People want it wherever they are."

But, he said, few people seem to want to use a mobile phone, even a smartphone, to get at all their online stuff.

Anand Chandrasekher
It might sound paradoxical but it took a lot of processing power to make a gadget's graphical interface easy to use
Anand Chandrasekher
Intel ultra mobility groups

Research by Intel suggests that 80% of people with a smartphone get frustrated when accessing the net with one.

The reason, he said, was because they only got a portion of what they were used to when they sat down in front of a desktop.

That frustration, said Mr Chandrasekher, helped to explain the growing interest in so-called netbooks - small machines that do a good job of connecting to the web but, before now, have lacked the processing horsepower of their laptop and desktop brethren.

Statistics released at CES by the Consumer Electronics Association show that in 2008 the sales of netbooks jumped by 63%.

The CEA said, in the US, about 10 million of the cut-down computers were sold. It expects sales of the machines to almost double in 2009.

This year it also expects that 63% of computers sold in the US will be portable.

"I remember three or four years ago there were models out there and they did not take off," said HP spokesman Reagan Lucas, "and here we are at the beginning of 2009 and the segment has really taken off."

But, he said, people were careful shoppers when they go looking for a netbook and were keen to get as many features as possible into the gadget they buy

"Everyone wants the mostest for the leastest," he said.

Netbooks launches

At CES, HP showed off its Mini 1000 series of netbooks that come with either a solid state or standard hard drive, 92% size keyboard and are based around Intel's Atom 270 chip that is optimised for smaller devices.

The Mini 1000 Mi series run a Linux-based interface that gives owners access to a few key common tasks, such as e-mail, web browsing, media watching and sharing.

CES also saw the launch of netbooks such as the Asus Eee T91, the pricey Sony Vaio VGN P500, Dell Mini Inspiron 910 and many, many others.

Mr Chandrasekher said many of the smaller computers shown off at CES and due to go on sale in 2009 go beyond the basic capabilities of the first generation of netbooks.

The next version of Intel's Atom chip would cut power consumption by up to 10 times, claimed Mr Chandrasekher and do much to make netbooks more capable computers.

"It might sound paradoxical," said Mr Chandrasekher, "but it took a lot of processing power to make a gadget's graphical interface easy to use.

"There's a lot of intelligence that can be put in to help with that," he said.

Younger generation 'key'

Intel is not alone in trying to limit the compromises people make when buying a netbook. At CES graphics specialist Nvidia demonstrated a prototype machine based around its Tegra chip family.

"We see an opportunity in this product segment as the performance is pretty bad in most cases," said Stuart Bonnema, technical marketing manager for Nvidia's mobile products group.

"The graphics are designed for Outlook and Excel rather than performance."

The Tegra chipset, based around the ARM 11 processor design, uses dedicated hardware to handle graphics rather than rely on the basic abilities bound to a netbooks core processor. Without that dedicated silicon, said Mr Bonnema, videos or films would be unwatchable on a netbook.

"It'll play back video at three or four frames per second that is supposed to be running at 24," he said.

Decent video and media handling abilities were likely going to be crucial for the younger generation of netbook users, said Mr Bonnema.

"It's likely they will be used to watch video or create and edit clips for YouTube," he said.

The first netbooks with the Tegra chipset onboard should appear before June 2009, said Mr Bonnema.

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