Intel may allow 12.1 inch netbooks with launch of Atom N550

Intel is due to launch a follow-up to their current Atom netbook processors in the second half of 2010. Along with the new dual-core Atom N550, DigiTimes reports that Intel will be lifting the current 10.2 inch screen size restriction in favor of a larger, 12.1 inch maximum size. Other required specifications include a base of 1GB DDR memory and a 32GB SSD or 250GB traditional hard drive.

“Netbook” has been a cloudy, marketing term since its inception. Recently, it has been defined by the use of an Atom processor, small screen sizes and a sub-$300 price point. Now that the dictated screen sizes are encroaching on the realm of regular notebooks, the distinction is about to become even less clear, especially if prices also increase.

Styling and build quality have become the only defining factors in the all but commoditized category. Intel is surely looking to alternate form factors as a way to increase interest and keep the netbook segment from stagnating. Ars Technica also speculates that the Pine Trail + Broadcom CrystalHD combo will soon allow 1080p video playback on netbooks, and this capability makes a good argument for larger screens. The main draw of netbooks has always been their affordable price.

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