Is small beautiful?

VIA has been investing a lot recently in small form factor mainboards and other technologies for micro-sized PCs; and smaller PCs were one of the biggest draws at Computex 2002.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  August 10, 2002

VIA has been investing a lot recently in small form factor mainboards and other technologies for micro-sized PCs; and smaller PCs were one of the biggest draws at Computex 2002.

The smallest PC in the world, Atoz's EZGO is also gaining a wider following, with a distributor signed up for the Middle East. The message from the manufacturers at least, is that small is beautiful.

But will small form factors make an impression in the Middle East? I'm not sure they will. For a start, office space here is not at the premium that it is in the Far East, where so many of these ideas originate, nor as in the west. Apart from in the older cities, most offices are designed to accommodate PCs.

Noise and aesthetics are also not the selling pint here they are in other territories. Companies are rarely interested in anything other than price; or all out performance at the high end. The market splits between the high end, where there is no need to take space saving measures, and the low end, where price is everything.

But does that mean that there will not be a market for small form factor PCs? In retail and hospitality, two sectors that are both growing in the region, there is a demand for small, discrete PCs as point of sale terminals. Appearance is also important in these sectors. But the biggest area of potential does not lie in traditional PC deployments. Small form factors are not always meant as desktop replacements.

With the ever-growing popularity of DVD and MP3s for video and music, a small form factor PC can provide an alternative to a number of consumer electronics devices. Small form factors don't always cost more either.

In the west, there are an increasing number of families that own two, or even three PCs. While not all Middle East markets are anywhere near this level of PC penetration yet, the richer countries of the Gulf are close, and micro-PCs can provide a good option for a second PC.

The key to this sector is diversification, and in a market of declining PC sales, manufacturers have to look elsewhere for profits, as VIA has discovered to its benefit.

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