Later this year, we will have a DIY Notebook around the market. The 7 main components like cover/panel, LCD, battery, adapter, hard disk, optical drive, and keyboard are replaceable. In other words, all brands that have joined this consortium (some say that there are 50 brands already join this consortium) should have same design so these 7 parts will be interchangeable.

Few days ago, I had some discussion about this with my colleague.
The question is simple, about the future of DIY Notebook. Will this business be a new booming and trend as DIY PC (we call them as “PC rakitan” or “non build-up PC”)? Will this business be able to compete with branded notebook?

So, here’s my analysis.

First of all, never make same assumption about two different things. Notebook is not a PC and PC is not a notebook. Things that work on the notebook are not guaranteed to work on the PC and vice versa.

Why “PC rakitan” or non build-up PC could be very successful in the market?
There are may reason to be analyzed, and here’s some:
1. Branded PC is not popular for mass consumer market due to high price. Most of them (perhaps not all) use high-grade components and high quality control to maintain the reliability. These mean for higher cost.
2. Branded PC usually doesn’t have latest component in terms of performance. They prefer to be more conservative and prefer quality (reliability and stability) to quantity (performance). So, reliability is over performance. They actually have performance system, but surely out of most mass consumers’ budget.
3. The PC’s technology is already mature. It’s not a difficult thing for a newcomer technician to analyze the problem inside a PC. The analyzer (equipment used to analyze the problem inside the PC) is relatively affordable and easy to be used.

So, do you think that DIY Notebook will be as successful as DIY PC? If your answer is YES, perhaps you should consider these few things:
1. Most people who buy notebook will prefer a higher grade. Yes, cost is one of the important aspect, but some of them prefer a specific well know brand because of its reliability. I don’t mind spending a little bit more for a branded notebook, because I know what I will buy (rather than I have to buy a non-branded one).
2. There’s no performance gap between a branded notebook and a non-branded one. They will offer “almost” same in terms of performance. So, it’s a matter or personal preference to buy a specific brand. The price also will be considered. But since most branded notebook have cut their price, I think the gap is almost not really significant.
3. Notebook’s technology is relatively new. Not many people can repair a damaged notebook as easy as damage PC. Notebook uses a smaller component. Not many people can deal with tiny Surface Mounted Device (SMD) things eh? So, I don’t think this DIY notebook penetrations in the seller aspect will be as fast as DIY PC.

You tell me that the advantage of DIY notebook is the 7 replaceable notebook’s components. So, this is going to be main reason why DIY notebook will be successful in the market. Are you agree with me?
I’m afraid not 🙁 Sorry to say that. But when I buy a notebook, I don’t even care about replacing my screen, my optical, my hard drive, my battery, etc. Notebook is designed to be more durable than PC. I have my old notebook with its optical drive built on 2000 (now is 2006). It works fine. No problem. So, DIY notebook is simply useless. You don’t change your optical or hard drive every 3-6 months as happened in PC. So, replaceable components is simply not very usefull. Perhaps one consideration is for battery. I used to have bad battery every 2-3 years and the original replacement is quite expensive. Yes, I expect a cheaper replacement. But somehow, to buy the original battery (though a little bit expensive) every 2-3 years is still considerable. Unless, you have to replace your battery every 3 months 🙂

We have a big consortium with big factory. We will increase the production volume to reduce the price. Surely, we will give you very-very affordable price for a notebook. Isn’t this interesting?
Sure, affordable is a nice word to be heard. I think everyone will say so. But, can you give me same quality with branded one? Can you guarantee its quality? I believe you have your own minimum base cost to create a product in certain level of reliability. By pushing the cost too much, I’m afraid you will push its reliability to. I don’t give bad assumption. I expect you can give us high quality products at affordable price and I’m glad to hear that.

Let’s say I’m an IBM and Sony fan. If you can build a notebook with design like IBM or Sony. Not just the design but also the comfortability, reliability, and quality. But the thing that usually happened is the notebook is just an IBM-like or Sony like (physically). Another example is in electronics industry. You can see dozens of China’s VCD and DVD players based on the mass product with dozens of name and its varians. Can you expect its quality to match the Japanese brand? Yes some of them can, but their price is not cheap. The point is you can create a good product, but not in a cheap way. You have your own minimum cost to build a good product. Period.

You seem very pesimistic in this new concept. Why?
Well I don’t, actually. I believe this business is going to be very interesting. Notebook is getting more affordable to most people. With this DIY notebook, I think you can cut the price 20-30% less than the branded one and surely it’s very-very affordable (hope you still manage the quality). It’s good to have an affordable thing in our market. This is a very big market with big amount of money. But if you expect to beat the branded one, then you are dreaming 🙂 DIY simply can’t push the branded notebook as branded PC. Branded PC has no solid foundation, while branded notebook has a good acceptance in the market. Most corporate users I believe will stick to branded notebook. Though the market of this corporate users is perhaps not as big a consumer mass market, but simply it’s enough to maintain the market share for branded notebook.

So what’s your conclusion?
Very simple. If you are expecting this new business will beat the branded notebook, again, you are dreaming under the sun. This DIY notebook will catch the market share (quite big I believe). Most crappy branded notebook is simply on the big trouble. With good design and reability, this DIY will beat most crappy branded. But, this DIY will never beat the top brand notebook. They will walk together as a friend because they have their own market. The only reason for this DIY notebook to be successful in the market is because of its affordable price, not because of its 7 replaceable components.

It’s just another affordable OEM notebook with additional feature: the 7 replaceable components 😀