Amid the rush to the ultra-low end bargain PC market, its amazing how cheap a fuller functional Vista machine is

Many people are eying the ultra-portable bargain notebook market thanks to up-and-comers like Lenovo's IdeaPad S10 and the MSI Wind.  Chipmakers like Intel and VIA are struggling to keep up with demand for the bargain machines.  However, lost amid the ruckus is an equally significant trend in slightly higher-end model pricing.

Going to Best Buy, Circuit City, or even Target; a plethora of machines from manufacturers like Dell and HP assault the eyes.  Many of these Vista machines have impressive muscle for modest prices.  Take HP -- the average sale price (ASP) of a notebook with 14.1-inch display, 2GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive is $699.   That kind of machine can not only replace a desktop, but also meet most users’ multimedia needs and even handle some less graphically intensive gaming.

Interestingly, prices seem to have hit a sweet spot and are quite low, though not moving up or down.  Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, who yielded the HP ASP information had this to say of the trend, "We aren't seeing any particularly substantive moves down in price on the Windows side, either in desktops or notebooks."

While obviously it’s comparing apples and oranges, and the products appeal to different markets, it’s interesting to look at how Mac prices have changed versus PC prices.  Macs have gone from an average price of $1,432 and $1,574, for desktops and laptops respectively in June '06 to $1,543 and $1,515 respectively in June '08.  While much lower to start, PCs are now even lower in average sale price. The average PC notebook went from $877 to $700, while the average desktop dipped just barely from $559 to $550.

Vista PCs have reached a sweet point with pricing that is appealing not just to the high end crowd, but to the masses.  And while prices are staying constant, hardware features are increasing, which is good for the consumer.  As Mr. Baker puts it, "Of course there is feature creep—there always is."

Another trend along these lines is the push to support 64-bit Vista.  While numbers are still small, HP is leading the way, and its strong sales are certainly making an impact in spreading 64-bit.  DailyTech went into this trend in more detail.  Mr. Baker alludes to this stating, "Forty-eight percent of June Windows notebooks are 3GB systems.  But 4GB RAM Windows notebook systems are 11.6 percent of sales in June, up from nothing [at the] beginning of [the] year."

So what exactly do the latest NPD figures on Windows PCs show?  It can be interpreted in many ways, but one major observation is that Windows PCs are clearly the champion at lower prices.  It also shows that a full featured machine can be found for a very reasonable price.  This is good news for many -- and even better news when you consider holiday sales may momentarily sink prices even further.

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