Traditional rental market facing online challenges (B&F February 2009)

Below is the technology feature from a recent issue of Business & Finance magazine:

The financial difficulties facing Chartbusters is Ireland’s first solid sign of an international fact –the traditional video rental market is in trouble.

There are many potential reasons why this sector is in decline. DVD purchase prices have dropped while disposable income has – at least until recently – risen. Movie studios have narrowed the gap between the ‘to rent’ and ‘to buy’ release dates of films, while digital and even terrestrial television channels have been able to broadcast films months rather than years after they leave cinemas.

However there still seems to be some appetite amongst Irish consumers to rent DVDs – the problem facing Chartbusters and Xtra-vision, amongst others nationally and internationally, is that fewer want to do so in a physical outlet.

“The high street rental market is dying a slow death – it can’t compete with the rent-by-post model,” says Frank O’Grady, CEO of online rental company ScreenClick.com, which recently acquired its main Irish rival MovieStar.ie. “It accounts for a round 50% of the US market already and around 30% of the UK market, and Ireland is catching up.”

The ‘rent-by-post’ business model offered by the likes of ScreenClick.com is relatively simple. Customers sign up to a subscription package, which in ScreenClick.com’s case can cost between €8 and €32 per month. Depending on the package they are paying for they are able to rent between one and four DVDs at any one time and in many cases can rent an unlimited number of releases within a month.

Also there are no late fee customers will just not get their next rental until they post back their last. Most rental sites also allow customers to list a checklist of the DVDs they want to get at some point in order of preference. Ideally this allows the company to instantly ship their next most wanted DVD as soon as the last one returns; assuming it is in stock.

“Customers will get their top priority from us around 80% of the time and we encourage them to have at least their top ten films listed at all times,” says Mr. O’Grady.

In theory this means customers could watch a huge amount of films in any give month for just €32, assuming they could watch and return them quickly. Of course this happens the less they spend per rental and the less profit can be made. As a result of this many companies, including ScreenClick.com, operate a “fair use” policy which gives priority to lower volume customers potentially resulting in a slower turn-around of orders for those who rent a high number of DVDs per month.

According to Screenclick.com they post out around 70,000 DVDs per month and have in the region of 100,000 registered customers – although not all of these are active. The company also offers its services to companies like Eircom, An Post and The Irish Times which use their software, archives distribution structures as part of their own online rental services.

In February the company is due to launch a new partnership with a large computer manufacturer which could see it offer discount or even free computers when bought with Screenclick subscriptions – the new venture will see the company sell DVDs for the first time too.

However the old guard of the rental industry did see the threats facing them from DVD sales and online some time ago and have been moving to protect themselves from losses ever since. Xtra-vision, which is owned by international rental giant Blockbuster Entertainment, has actually been quite successful in its attempts to restructure the business while Chartbusters has clearly had a tougher time.

The Xtra-vision approach has been to move out of the suburbs and to bolster its presence in urban and high street locations. The company has tried to increase the floor space of the 160 outlets it has kept open in Ireland and now offers DVDs, music and games to-buy as well as mobile phone and gadgets such as iPods.

It is thought that the rental side of Xtra-vision’s business now accounts for just half its revenue. In fact, Xtra-vision’s turn around in recent years has been so impressive that its management team was sent across Europe three years ago to oversee a similar restructuring of Blockbuster’s international operations.

In both the US and UK Blockbuster has moved into the rent-by-post market to compete with its new rivals directly however there has been no indication made by Xtra-vision so far to suggest it would follow suit. In America Blockbuster is competing mainly with Netflix and is suffering badly as a result of sticking to its core rental business for too long. In Britain the main competition is LoveFilm.com, which happens to be the owner of Screenclick.com following an estimated €3m buy-out in 2006.

Of course DVD rental by post has its limitations – mainly the inability to cater for impulse rentals. Customers who realise at 8pm that there is nothing on TV cannot rely on companies like Screenclick to fill the void, as Mr. O’Grady himself is first to admit.

This gap may be where digital downloads come into the mix in the future. In Ireland at present the only rent-by-download films available legally are on the Xbox 360’s Live network and the selection is limited. Despite this does mean you can rent on an impulse and enjoy the product almost instantly – as long as your broadband connection is good.

Internationally Apple offer TV shows and movies to either rent or buy while even Blockbuster has recently starting rolling out its own download service. However it may be some time before equivalents of these becomes available on these shores.

“Video on demand is quite a distant problem for us – we don’t see it becoming a real proposition in Ireland for a few years yet,” said Mr. O’Grady. “That said it is something we’re looking at ourselves and we could have a small offering of films to download by the end of the year.”

Best of luck to the nominees

I’m on the way back to Dublin after a few relaxing days away so I won’t be at the blog awards, as much as i’d like to be.

So before the ceremony kicks off in Cork I’d like to wish all the nominees the best of luck, particularly those in the Best Blog by a Journalist category.

I’ll hopefully be following the festivities on Twitter, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of activity there tonight.

Hope everyone there has a good one, see you all on the other side.

Shortlisted

I’m genuinely surprised to see this blog shortlisted for the 2009 Irish Blog Awards. Thanks to the judges who decided that AdamMaguire.com was good enough to make the cut.

It’s quite a cut too – the competition is extremely fierce. I’m sticking by my previous prediction of Michael O’Toole’s blog but given that Jim Carroll has gone into the Music category I’d say Conor Pope is also up there at the top. Markham‘s churning out some great stuff too – the man is a machine when it comes to workload and deserves to be rewarded for that too.

Anyway – whoever does win in this category and others will deserve it. Some of the categories are really tough to call and it should make for an interesting and eventful night.

Best of luck to everyone and thanks again.

My logic/emotional battle over the iPhone

I’ve been listening through some archived episodes of the absolutely brilliant Radio Lab podcast and recently came across their show on choice.

One experiment they speak about in this episode relates to the emotional and logical decision-making centres of the brain and how important they are in making a quick and rounded choice. Both sides are necessary in any decision, they suggest, as both give a different but equally relevant perspective on things.

The emotional side will suggest the path that has the most instantly satisfying outcome, even if it is less than ideal in the grand scheme of things. The logical side will weigh up the facts and decide on what path makes the most sense, even if it’s the one that’s unappealing or even upsetting. So in a choice between cake and salad the emotional side will choose cake because it tastes so good but the logical side will choose salad because it’s healthy and nutritious.

Having listened to this show (coincidently on the iPhone I have on trial) I’m now distinctly aware of the rolling battle between these sides over Apple’s mobile device. It has so many flaws but so much charm and I constantly change my mind as to which side out-weighs the other.

So here’s how my brain is working when thinking critically of the iPhone:

Emotional side:

  • It’s absolutely beautiful.
  • The screen looks fantastic.
  • The OS is brilliant.
  • I can do so many trivial but entertaining things with the various apps.
  • I can have everything I need in one device; e-mail, phone, text, web-browsing, mp3 player, twitter client, etc.
  • Some of the sync features with iTunes (amongst other things) are superb.
  • The physical ‘silence’ switch is so useful.
  • Logical side:

  • You cannot touch-type.
  • The battery is far too small.
  • It has a maximum of 16GB storage, which isn’t much when you factor in music, film, pictures, apps and so on.
  • The touch screen does not work when you have gloves on.
  • The App Store and iTunes is too well integrated – too easy to spend money.
  • You cannot download podcasts over 10MB over 3G.
  • O2 have a monthly 1GB download limit.
  • There’s no flash player, yet.
  • There’s no copy and paste, yet.
  • Some of these things would normally be deal-breakers for me, particularly the touch-typing issue, but the iPhone has so many tiny moments of perfection it’s hard to write it off like that.

    I don’t think I could use this as a phone, however, because of the textiabove ng issue so I think if I were to buy a touch-based Apple device I’d be leaning towards the iPod Touch. What puts me off that is the fact that you need to be in a WiFi zone to check e-mail and browse the web so here’s how Apple can solve my conundrum:

    They can release an iPod Touch internet device with at least 32GB of storage and a 3G connection that allows it to use the mobile phone network without actually being a phone. In other words they should hurry up and release an iPod/PDA with a SIM Card slot; if they do I’ll be all over it.

    Five things the new Village Magazine needs to do now

    So the second issue of Village Magazine 2.0 is coming under some legal scrutiny from Declan Ganley, following the publication of a profile critical of the man himself.

    This is sure to be of some concern to Michael Smith and all at Village as legal battles with millionaires are never good for a publication’s bottom line, regardless of the rights or wrongs of the case.

    But Village has much more integral issues to deal with – ones that will ruin its chances of survival on a day-to-day basis, never mind in the context of legal issues.

    Here are five things I think Village Magazine needs to do if it wants to have any hope of surviving 2009 and beyond:

    1) Get a proper website and use it properly.

    At the moment Village Magazine is using a WordPress blog with a basic template and nothing else. This makes it look like a fan-site more than anything official. At the very least the website should be re-designed to make it visually relevant to the magazine itself but really it should serve as a destination and not just a marker in the sand.

    Village, as a monthly (or whatever it is) publication cannot hope to keep up with the pace of the rolling news agenda but its website can. The old Village made soundings in the right direction but was always too scared to make the leap into a truly online outlet. The magazine was kept behind a pay-wall even after it was off the shelves, the unique online content wasn’t all that unique and there was no interaction with the readers.

    The new Village website needs to look at what’s going on internationally and react. It needs to be relevant to the daily news grind, it needs to provide a real forum for discussion of its published content and it needs to tap into the readership as a source of constructive criticism and information.

    At the very least, it needs a real website.

    2) Re-think its design and get consistent with it.

    The old Village must have gone through five major redesigns in its short life, if you factor in format changes and the like. Consistency was simply not there as basic things like the logo and cover template would change dramatically from issue to issue. Not in a smart, subversive way like Adbusters but in a small and confused way that implied incoherence and uncertainty within.

    One month it would have a red border, the other it would be blue. One month the logo would be relatively small and the next it would be huge. One month there would be loud, ugly yellow text detailing a story and the next it would be modest, white and neat. Internally it was just as bad and simple mistakes (like the contents pointing to the wrong page or naming the wrong writer, typos in headlines etc.) were common place.

    What the new Village needs to do is pick a striking and slick design and stick to it. It needs to make it look serious, not amateur or tabloid. It needs to be eye-catching and bold and it needs to be unmistakable.

    The last two covers have been very similar to the old Village, possibly to make it recognisable to the old readership. This makes some sense, of course it also works to make it recognisable to those who hated the old version for reasons other than its ideology (such as it’s design). The underlying problem, however, is that the old Village didn’t look very nice.

    If you look at the Editorial page of the new issue it’s a horrific muddle of colours – it’s so unappealing and harder to read as a result. A lot of the design internally is off too; not ugly but inconsistent and bare. Some design ideas in there are good – colour-coding the sections can work very well but it needs to be done properly and the pages need to look full and professionally produced.

    I’m not sure who is picking the design at the moment and whether it’s form over function in terms of how it looks but Irish magazines have a terrible habit of sacrificing design and losing readers as a result. It’s not that they’re shallow readers, its just that bad design is unappealing to the eye. It’s the reason why newspapers spend huge money researching what design works and what doesn’t. It’s the reason why designers go to college. It’s the reason why Village needs someone with a good eye, plenty of talent and enough of a voice to remind everyone that neither design or editorial quality needs to be compromised when creating a product.

    3) Spend whatever it takes to get an agenda-setting story every issue and make a big deal about it.

    This was a major flaw in the old Village’s strategy – it had some great investigative journalists on board at first but because it was weekly they were never given the time to really dig deep on a story. It finally went monthly but couldn’t keep these journalists on staff even though they now had time (but perhaps not the money) to properly investigate issues.

    In the end the magazine became a victim of the news cycle – it was reacting to things that happened last week and was often stale by the time it got to the shelves or worse was engaging in monologues about things that had been debated on TV and radio at length anyway.

    A monthly cannot try and follow the news agenda, it needs to set its own. It is not practical to expect huge exclusives every month but even a few small but unique news stories will let readers know they’re not going to be reading something stale when they pick it up.

    When they do get this kind of story they should shout about it from the roof-tops too. Get it discussed on radio, TV and blogs but more importantly put it as the cover story.

    In the latest issue the magazine claims to have an exclusive from Frank Connolly on corruption allegations relating to a large Dublin development. This is mentioned on the cover but it’s part of a list down in the bottom right-hand corner. The reader’s main focus is drawn to a picture of rats and a vague headline about dealing with the people that killed the Celtic Tiger. It may be an attempted link in to the corruption story and others but it doesn’t work – it’s too nondescript and seemingly irrelevant.

    As well as this the image used isn’t nearly strong or specific enough to let people know what it’s about. The main headline and picture combined could lead people to think this is some kind of vermin eradication trade magazine. I say that half in jest but in reality it certainly doesn’t imply it’s a news or current affairs publication.

    4) Tell us something we don’t know.

    Connected somewhat to the previous point, Village needs to stop chasing the news agenda and filling its pages with cheap and repetitive opinion.

    Newspapers are there to tell us what happened yesterday and will happen today or tomorrow; they’re also full of opinion and debates on what that means for the wider world. There is a place for a news re-cap and opinion in a monthly magazine but it should be in the minority. Two pages at the start with multiple 150-word pieces on the main news events of the month and a handful of columns at the end, that’s enough. The rest should be fresh, new and original. I’m not saying it has to be hard-hitting and earth-shattering at every turn, it just needs to be unique.

    Features taking a new angle on an old story, oranalysing the repercussions of events would be far more interesting than someone’s tired opinion on the same.

    5) Let people know it’s changed.

    Village had a core readership when it went to the wall and that should be brought to the new version if possible. It also had a swathe of people who refused to read it for various reasons and more who don’t know it’s back.

    These people need to be reached in some way and it needs to be made clear that things have changed and how. Not just in the editorial of the magazine because you’re preaching to the choir somewhat; it must be told to as many people as possible outside of that small base.

    That doesn’t require a huge advertising campaign, a decent website and word of mouth will do most of the work for you and a new look that makes it stand out will do the rest. The problem now is that Village 2.0 is being read by the same small (or even smaller) audience as Village 1.0 and as it looks and feels like the old version it’s assumed to be the same.

    Get the content, get the solid and consistent look and get the word out there. It won’t guarantee survival but repeating the mistakes of a failed project from the past will only guarantee failure.

    I appreciate that some of these things don’t come cheap either, particularly getting new and unique content on a monthly basis. However while daily newspapers can get away with slashing budgets and maintaining readers – because they’re just regurgitating information that’s out there – monthly magazines cannot. There is no reason to buy a magazine over a newspaper if they both offer the same thing and people will not buy Village if it has nothing new to bring to the table.

    Twitter > Blog

    According to the Dashboard of my blog I’ll have made 598 blog posts once this entry is published. At this very moment I have made 662 posts through my Twitter account.

    I was sceptical of the value of Twitter when first set up my account in the middle of 2007. In fact the only reason I even logged on then was to subscribe to the IrishElection.com feed for the 2007 General Election. I didn’t actually post on it until April 2008 and only did so three times before forgetting all about the thing.

    Something convinced me to come back to the thing in late October 2008 and I have been posting on it since – an average of around 6 a day since then.Part of what made using the thing more logical was the third party apps like TweetDeck as keeping a webpage open to update it regularly was too awkward.

    I now use Twitter regularly but I’m still not sold on some of the things it is supposed to offer people and businesses. It’s really just a fusion between facebook, forums and texting. The noise to signal ratio is far higher on Twitter (in my input at least) and while it is a great way of conversing with people to a certain extent I cannot see how a company can really use it to talk to its clients in a way that blogs and e-mails don’t allow.

    I have well under 100 followers and am following under 50 people and at times I find it hard to keep track of what everyone is saying. I figure there must be a tipping point at which the number of people you subscribe to (or who subscribe to you) becomes too large to allow any real or meaningful dialogue and it can be very easy from there for the conversation to become one-way. In the end people with huge followings are just talking at their followers, not with.

    I do think Twitter is a good thing, however. I wouldn’t be using it if I didn’t. There’s a lot of pointless stuff posted – I’m as guilty as anyone in typing out whatever’s on the top of my head at any given time – but the posts are so short you don’t feel robbed if you read one that you don’t care about. Besides that the amount of quality – assuming you’ve added the right people – makes the whole thing worthwhile for the most part.

    In other words, I expect the gap between my Twitter and blog to grow further in the next few months but I’ll still consider my blog to be my primary presence online and my e-mail account my primary mode of communication.

    Irish Blog Awards Long List announced

    The Long List for the 2009 Irish Blog Awards has been announced – it is available to read here.

    I’ve made the cut in the Best Blog from a Journalist category, so thanks to those who have kept me in the race and hard luck to those who have dropped off.

    I stand by my earlier prediction for the category and it’s not false modesty when I say I will be surprised but delighted if I’m short-listed. I must say I’m genuinely happy that the competition in the Journalist’s blog category is so good – it’s not too long ago that there weren’t enough Irish journalists blogging, let alone enough ones worth reading.

    So may the best blog win in every category – it’s going to be a tough one to decide who/what that is but I’m sure the judges will get it right. Also, one of many pats on the back for Damien; the behind-the-scenes stuff is vast I’m sure and it’s not like this is his full-time job.

    Issue two of re-launched Village on the way

    Michael Smith has just informed Village Magazine readers that the second issue of the re-launched title will hit the shelves this Friday, 5th February.

    The magazine had shut its doors in the Summer of 2008 following prolonged attempts by then owner and editor Vincent Browne to make it profitable. The publication was re-launched just before December of last year and aimed to re-focus its remit as a “left-wing, investigative” publication. As part of the first issue Smith and co. offered a €10,000 reward for anyone would could provide comprehensive information about how Libertas was funded during the Lisbon Treaty campaign.

    At the time of the re-launch Smith said the magazine would be published twice again before the end of January, although this turned out not to be the case, and if it proved viable would continue monthly from March 2009.

    In his recent comment Smith said sales of the November/December issue were “quite encouraging”, clearly enough to justify a second swing at things.

    Smith was an investor in Village Magazine when it was founded but walked away some time ago following a disagreement with Vincent Browne. Browne still owns the website Village.ie but handed control of VillageMagazine.ie over to Smith before the re-launch.

    Advice to businesses for 2009 (B&F January 2009)

    This article was previously published in Business & Finance Magazine, 15th-29th January 2009.

    Even by the most optimistic estimates, 2009 is going to be a tough year in business. Here three technology experts give their advice on how technology can be used and managed to allow businesses to survive and thrive.

    Damien Mulley is the owner of Mulley Communications, which specialises in media training and online PR. He says by taking a hold of your own promotion strategy you can have a more cost-effective and modern approach to marketing:

    You should buy every paper for two weeks and jot down the journalists that cover the stories your company would fit into. These are the people you’ll want to build a relationship with.

    If you only have resources to do this a few hours a month then pick one journalist and work on understanding them and what they want. Actually e-mailing and asking what kind of information they want works quite well; most journalists are happy to tell you.

    You should still do PR with the generic e-mail addresses for papers and radio stations, just make sure your releases make sense and tell a story.

    If you plan to be away from the office when you have sent out a release, make sure to have a fully charged phone. Buy a copy of the Media Contact book too, the best listings for the media in Ireland and well worth the investment.

    None of this will add too much to your work load but you may still find you need a PR company’s expertise. Many of them are very experienced in what they do and can have great relationships with the media. If you decide you do need one it might be an idea to get other companies involved to see if they will do a group deal with you. 2009 is going to be tough for PR companies so they might be happy with the work. Always ask for recent – as in 2 weeks ago – work they did for a client and the result. Something from last year is like a lifetime ago in a news cycle.

    It is vital you have a website too, even the most basic one is better than none. Make sure you use an Irish webhost or a .ie domain name to help you do better in Google.ie listings – if Google can find the information on your site that is the main thing. You should not need to run ads for the basics of your business if you have a website that is simply designed. You should be first in Google for these things already.

    www.mulley.ie

    Pat Phelan is founder and owner of MaxRoam, a service that offers low-cost mobile phone roaming internationally. He advises businesses to examine every aspect of their outgoings, saying they should not be afraid to end agreements that are not proving beneficial:

    I would suggest any company immediately re-negotiate all their maintenance contracts, cancel all direct debit payments and change them to invoice-based.

    Cancel all contracts with recruitments agencies and offer your existing staff a bonus if they find you an incredible employee; this has considerable benefits in the short term.

    On a telephony side, do not make mobile calls whilst in range of a fixed line. Sometimes I see people calling others in the same office on their corporate mobile. Your mobile supplier should also be requested to immediately review your existing contracts and minute bundle.

    Examine your telecoms spend whilst traveling in minute detail. I use Boingo as a wifi provider whilst I travel and spend $30 a month on an unlimited account, we share this in our office and no longer pay for internet connectivity whilst travelling.

    Obviously hardware will need to be replaced from time to time and I would certainly consider looking at reconditioned units as there will be plenty floating around.

    www.patphelan.net

    Conor O’Neill is a director at IT consultancy company Argolon, which owns the social networking-based review site LouderVoice.com. He says the arrival of cloud computing means serious savings and efficiencies can be found by SMEs:

    The key to saving money on IT in 2009 is “the cloud” and Software as a Service (SaaS). By pushing as much as possible online you can keep using older hardware, allow staff to work from anywhere, make use of some great new tools and minimise all your traditional support headaches.

    A simple, free example of SaaS is Google Apps. It gives you 6GB+ of free, spam-filtered e-mail per employee with GMail whilst keeping your existing mail domain. With it you can write documents, spreadsheets and presentations online and share them with others. Employees can communicate about these shared documents using Google Talk, while Google Sites can host your intranet and information-sharing wiki.

    Zoho provides even more online applications than Google, some of which are paid-for. If you are struggling to manage your customer contacts and sales process, Zoho CRM is free for up to three users. They have everything from e-mail to Form builders and Invoicing applications to Project Management tools.

    You can provide online support to customers and get their feedback using sites like LouderVoice, GetSatisfaction, IGOpeople and PollDaddy. If you want to sell online but are worried about cost and complexity then sites like Venda, NitroSell, FastCommerce and Shopify can have your online shop up and running almost instantly at a cost starting from £50 per month.

    Cloud-based sites also mean you can stop relying on portable harddisks and USB drives to back-up information. PutPlace, JungleDisk and others let you back-up machines online and are cheap, reliable and scalable.
    The cloud also makes aging IT useful again – my top tip for an aging PC is to cram it with memory and install the Firefox or Chrome web-browser to enable your staff to “live in the cloud”!

    www.argolon.com

    Again, many thanks to Pat Phelan, Damien Mulley and Conor O’Neill for their input.

    Review: Lenovo IdeaPad s10e

    Previously published in Business & Finance, 15th-29th January 2009. Information correct at the time of going to print.

    Lenovo IdeaPad S10e

    The ‘netbook’ market is more than just saturated – it is flooded. Every major computer manufacturer bar Apple now has at least one ultra-portable, ultra-cheap laptop on the market and some – such as Asus – seem to be building their entire business plan around them.

    Lenovo has been a quiet manufacturer generally speaking, not just in the world of netbooks. That is not to say that they are a small or insignificant player, they just tend to release very functional machines that may not garner the attention a more stylish release would.

    Their reputation is strong, however, and the IdeaPad S10e shows that they want to maintain that in a market where some are willing to cut corners.

    Housing an impressive 10.1” display, a huge 160GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM and a 1.6GHz Intel processor the machine packs a punch that some year-old full-scale laptops might not. It runs on Windows XP and features a built-in webcam and microphone, two USB ports an SD card reader, Bluetooth and WiFi functionality and an express card slot.

    The ‘e’ in the product name signals that the device is designed for the education market and it will certainly appeal there. Just like other Lenovo releases it may not be the prettiest of machines but it does exactly what it needs to do at a good price.

    The keyboard takes a little bit of getting used to but even on first attempt typing was relatively easy. Its screen is more than adequate for what it is designed and XP was the perfect choice for fast and functional operations.

    Another feature that will appeal to students is its quick start-up speed, which took about 35 seconds to get from power-on to the familiar XP start music; perfect for travelling from lecture to lecture.

    Shut-down did not seem to be quite as prompt which is a let down, of course closing the laptop will put it into standby mode anyway.

    A nice feature Lenovo have added to the keyboard of the S10e is the shortcut buttons, which are given very specific functions. One opens a quick-start menu which can be customised by the user, meaning you can specify up to nine programmes which you will have quicker access to.

    The other is a broadcast button which switches the laptop’s various signals – be they WiFi or Bluetooth – on and off when pressed. This is a simply idea that could be vital in saving limited battery power during use.

    Sadly it is in the area of battery life that the Lenovo falls down. Housing a 3-cell battery, users will be lucky to get three hours use out of the machine before it powers down and that is assuming all the various power-saving features are in use.

    This kind of limitation is not unique to the S10e, on the contrary it is a common problem with netbooks of any creed. However recent releases from companies like Samsung have seen dramatic improvements in battery performance and in such a fast-moving and profit-light market a marginal advantage like this can make all the difference.

    Despite this the S10e is one of the better netbooks out there. It is amazingly light, slim and powerful and most importantly it is functional. Lenovo could have done slightly better with this but they certainly could have done a lot worse.

    The IdeaPad S10e is available from Dabs.ie for €333 plus delivery.