By Nestor E. Arellano

Are netbooks dead? Does any one even care?

Cramped design, underpowered and lacking the tablet’s appeal it’s easy to understand why many pundits would be quick to write off what only two years ago was a blockbuster seller that shook the PC world.

Nestor Arellano
Deloitte LLP’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions speculate that businesses will buy more than 10 million tablet devices throughout 2011. The same report also anticipates production of some 50 million tablets and 375 million smartphones compared to just 390 million computers, laptops and netbooks.

At the same time Acer, a major player in the netbook market, is expected to reduce shipment of netbooks and focus instead on tablet production. In May this year, the Taiwanese company shipped between 400,000 and 500,000 netbooks – down by about 50 per cent from last month.

Related story – Netbooks could suffer deathblow from iPad, tablets

 

Despite the numbers, I don’t believe that we’ve seen the last of netbooks. Each time I see my teenage daughter Hilary happily watching Degrassi reruns, keeping up with Facebook friends or typing out her resume on her Atom-powered HP Mini, I just can’t shake the feeling that despite the iPad’s cache on cool the clunky netbook has struck a niche market.

For sure netbooks are no longer the stars they were back in 2008 and 2009, but they still fulfill a designated purpose – surfing the Net, typing documents, watching videos and emailing. This is pretty much what the original netbooks with 1GB of RAM were made for and they did it well. Much of the complaints about netbooks actually come out when the mini machines are expected to do more than what they were made for.

Sure there are many small laptops and ultra-light notebooks that come packed with more computing power to run office suites, do presentations and play online games. But these features are often not those sought after by most netbook users. Tablets may boot up faster, show crisper video images but it also comes with a hefty price tag that doesn’t include a keyboard.

Related story – AMD’s Fusion chip launched on slew of netbooks

Perhaps one sure sign that manufacturers are not yet giving up on the netbook is that Asus, Acer’s rival, showed off two new models of the mini notebooks at Computex. These Windows-powered netbooks are priced at around $299 and will have an “instant on feature”. Asus will also release its Eee PC X101 which runs on Intel’s MeeGo mobile OS and will cost around $199. The company will also soon release two Windows 7 netbooks priced between $240 and $250.

Samsung, Lenovo and Fujitsu also have their own MeeGo-powered netbooks.

Apart from their current cool factor, tablets are being snapped up by consumers for their longer battery life and shorter boot time compared to netbooks.

I think netbooks will weather this onslaught due their much lower prices. For now, the netbook’s survival will hinge not on technology or design but on its price tag.

What do you think?
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  • genusguy

    I have both a netbook and an iPad and fully agree that netbooks (and gen2 netbooks) are not dead. The iPad shines as a information consumptive device for non-business consumers. It works in the business environment but not always as well as one would like given its lack of Active Directory awareness most businesses implement. The inadequacies of the netbook are memory (I’ve ugraded to 2GB), slow disk (I’ve ugraded to 40GB SSD) and instant on (I suspend more than power off). It becomes more iPad like but works better in a business setting. I think the new windows based tablets with a windows 8 tablet OS will really be netbook generation 2, without the “netbook” name.

    • Thanks very much for your comments Genusguy. I do believe we will some incremental chnages in netbooks and this form factor certainly has got a bit more life to it. I know of editors and writers who prefer taking netbooks in their out of town trips because their light and can do the work they want done. They’re also much cheaper to replace than an iPad should they get lost or broken.

  • Netbooks fulfill the promise of laptops, notebooks and certainly the portables that came before them.

    Their portability, usability, security, features, battery life and yes, price tags will ensure their survival.

    But what really makes them successful is the fact that you don’t have to peck at a glass screen with no tactile feedback. They’re a truly portable workstation that will easily adapt to your needs, whether you need a mobile computer for work or play!

    • Anonymous Security and Privacy Guy, you’re the second person today that complained about touchscreens. You used the same term too “peck” on a glass screen.

  • Vishal

    I think PADs can never take down the netbooks.Pads and Netbooks both are different things according to there uses.If we consider the present condition then netbooks are more powerful and reliable as compare to pads.They delivers high performance at great battery back up.The operating system of netbooks like Windows and ios works well on netbook and much flexible. But pads have limited power and less battery back up.The present OS of pads is not completely optimized with pad and haves some bugs.
    A price factor is also a cause,Pads are much expensive as compare to netbooks.In present market one can buy a high performance netbook even at low prices as compare to pads.

    Since its a new technology and evolution of the pad devices therefore people are not addict to use Pads. Yes,its possible in future when evolution of pad devices will expand at great extend and pad becomes much convenient.

    In my case i prefer to have both netbook as well as pad and plan to buy a ASUS Pad Transformer.

  • I think PADs can never take down the netbooks.Pads and Netbooks both are different things according to there uses.If we consider the present condition then netbooks are more powerful and reliable as compare to pads.They delivers high performance at great battery back up.The operating system of netbooks like Windows and ios works well on netbook and much flexible. But pads have limited power and less battery back up.The present OS of pads is not completely optimized with pad and haves some bugs.
    A price factor is also a cause,Pads are much expensive as compare to netbooks.In present market one can buy a high performance netbook even at low prices as compare to pads.

    Since its a new technology and evolution of the pad devices therefore people are not addict to use Pads. Yes,its possible in future when evolution of pad devices will expand at great extend and pad becomes much convenient.

    In my case i prefer to have both netbook as well as pad and plan to buy a ASUS Pad Transformer.

    Ai-inner circle member,WePC.com

    • Thanks Vishal. I think tablets and netbooks have totally different markets.

  • That is interesting article indeed. Furthermore, information on Marketing tools can also be found at http://www.YoutextGlobal.com Online SMS, SMS Gateway, BULK Email

  • Hi, Pete Ledger here from the UK. I generally concur with the other commenters in that I believe the netbook has quite a bit of life left in it. I too have both a netbook and a tablet, and while the tablet is ultra portable, fun to use and good looking typing anything bigger than a shopping list on it is a chore. The netbook has pretty much the best of both worlds for me; it is light and very portable, it has a proper keyboard that I can actually touch type on (try doing that on a virtual keyboard), it has a clear display and lasts all day on one charge. I also have a full size laptop and a desktop for comparison; however, when I am working guess which one I pack in my briefcase? You got it!

  • I purchased my Netbook for $180. I use it as a portable device whether on a trip or just on the couch. It doesn’t quite make it as an ereader however, a bit awkward. When considering an ereader purchase I can’t help thinking that a Tablet would be so much more in function and price. Should have got a touchpad for that discounted price of $100.

    • Hi J. Preston,
      Thanks very much for your comments. If you’re looking for an eareader, yes, the TouchPad with its steeply discounted price http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/home/News.asp?id=63905
      does sound like a good bargain now. It would be great if developers can get Android to work on it. But there are some users who also prefer the existing WebOS.