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Does 2012 Mark the End of the Netbook? 336

Posted by samzenpus
from the so-long-farewell-auf-weidersehen-goodbye dept.
Voline writes "Digitimes reports that Asus and Acer will not be producing netbooks in 2013, signaling the end of a product category that Asus began five years ago with its Eee PC. The Guardian looks at the rise and fall of the netbook and posits some reasons for its end. Reasons include: manufacturers shifting from Linux to Windows, causing an increase in price that brought netbooks into competition with full-on laptops that offered better specs for not much more money; the global recession beginning in 2008; and the introduction of the iPad and Android tablets."
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Does 2012 Mark the End of the Netbook?

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  • Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobstreo (1320787) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:07PM (#42435337)

    Samsung ChromeBooks, Apple 11 inch devices. Tablets with keyboards not running windows 8 or 7 for everything else...

    • Re:Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:19PM (#42435509)

      Yeah, Apple's 11-inch devices are roughly a form factor that would be considered netbook-sized a few years ago. Slightly on the large end for screen size, since I think of 8-11" as typical netbook size, with the majority being 9-10". But spot-on for weight: the 11-inch Macbook Air weighs less than most 9-10-inch first-gen netbooks did. So the market got somewhat cannibalized from the top end by those kinds of devices. And from the bottom-end, the casual user who wants to browse the web occasionally in a coffee shop, everyone now has smartphones, and many people have iPads and similar.

      • by kthreadd (1558445)
        Not really, netbooks used to be in the 7-9 inch range.
        • by vux984 (928602)

          but had the keyboard dangling off the screen. They were fairly close to the same size and weight at the end of the day, and the tablets turned out to be quite a bit better for the couch-web.

        • by SQLGuru (980662)

          Dell sold a 12" netbook. It was the netbook guts with a bigger screen. 7 to 9 was the most common, but bigger ones existed.

        • by fractoid (1076465)
          As originally envisaged, a netbook was a portable computer with a small laptop form factor which was optimised for ruggedness and lowest cost rather than performance. It was a cheap internet appliance designed to literally be thrown across the room to whoever at your house party wanted internet access right now. They started out at $500ish for the EEE PC range and got down to about $200 before stupid consumers started thinking that netbook equals cheap laptop, and so started whinging that netbooks weren't l
    • by icebike (68054)

      My thoughts exactly.
      Google is pushing Chromebooks heavily right now.

      I suspect the people predicting the demise of netbooks are working from a very narrow definition of these devices, and excluding from that definition tablets, (with or without keyboards), or those netbooks that are running web browsers as their only operating system.

      • by tepples (727027)
        Tablets that cannot run PC applications and force all activities to be maximized, as opposed to allowing a split screen or overlapping windows, are not a perfect replacement for the low-cost subnotebook PC that netbooks used to be.
    • Samsung ChromeBooks

      Yeah, I've seen some people who are really happy with their ChromeBooks. It does everything they need for a very low price.

  • No Vision (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:09PM (#42435371)

    The problem is that they don't know how to make a netbook. I think there is a valid market for a device the size of the original Acer ZG5 netbook. The problem is that the hardware companies allowed Microsoft to define what a netbook was and not the market. I'd love something the size of my Acer ZG5 that had a quad i7 and 8GB of ram and came with linux installed but that never happened. Underpowered Atom based machines with 2GB ram at nearly the price of a dual core equiped laptop. Who wants that? No one and I can't believe they could not figure that out.

    • Re:No Vision (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Telvin_3d (855514) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:26PM (#42435579)

      So... you want a macbook air?
      Yes, the dimensions are slightly different, but it does come with a UNIX pre-installed.

      Apple isn't perfect, but they are the only company that has focused on high end hardware instead of racing to the bottom of every market.

      • Apple Shareholders (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tuppe666 (904118) on Monday December 31, 2012 @05:27PM (#42436143)

        racing to the bottom of every market.

        That is called competition and its why Apple logo is not selling computers anymore. Apple had their best quarter in 5 years and only sold 1 in 20 computers that has since has dropped, its market share for phones has dropped from a high of 23% now down to 14.9 and tablets have hit 50% hard. Its market cap had the value of 12 Dell companies wiped off its market cap in three months.

        The reality is now that tablets; smartphones are simply commodity products, and its products are neither innovative or unique. It has to compete like everybody else...and that is price [and product range] as its high mark-ups become unsustainable . Seriously a macbook air...with its low resolution screen that costs the same as 5 nexus tablets they are out of touch.

        As for the touch being Unix...seriously that old chestnut, Android is too I suppose??

        • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:35AM (#42439421)

          I'm typing this up on a W7 i7 desktop I built myself. I don't wanna be accused of Apple fanboiism. Like most here, probably, I assemble my computers -- in my case mostly because my PSU is rocksolid and I can reuse certain components like my video card (not a gamer), SSD, harddrives, Blu-ray reader, and cardreader my from the last computer. But more than any of that, so I don't have to put up with the shitton of crapware that comes on a new computer. Last time I bought an Acer for someone (2007, not sure how it's these days), it was a fucking nightmare and next to impossible to remove (not to mention no recovery CD - that was $20 extra + s/h).

          I think your post a bit ridiculous. Apple is selling better than before, sales slowed due to size. It's easy to grow 1000% when starting from next to nothing (smartphone market, not the company itself).

          Don't mistake an expanding market/dropping market share as Apple failing. It's inevitable in every market: there are luxury manufacturers and and those that sell to the masses. Rarely can a company do both well. Even among car makers, like Honda and Toyota, they eventually had to make up a new marque (Acura and Lexus) to bridge that gap semi-successfully.

          Japanese companies used to be all about marketshare too and by chasing every sale, even at a loss, they gained little but the weatherwave loyalty of people who now buy chinese products because they are 10 cents cheaper.

          Apple already went the marketshare route in the 90s. They licensed out their OS and it was a disaster for them. Now it probably would be even worse - they are not a hardware company in the traditional sense and tehy will get trounced playing that game.

          Apple is all about comfortable margins. They still have one advantage others don't, which they sell. Ecosystem and integration. Someone that buys an iPhone is likely to spring for an iPad sometime, more than any other tablet. After they get a tablet, they might go for notebook. It all works together rather seamlessly for the average bullshit that average people do. Developers of both physically accessories and software like it since there are few major models to target.

          Apple has it's customers and they pay the premium and are apparently happy more or less. Since it's no longer the early 90s, marketshare doesn't matter that much anymore in terms of program availabilty except for video games (which has largely gone to the console market anyway - Apple is notebooks more than desktops and it's unlikely hardcore gamers are going to rely on those anytime soon anyway).

          Or like my parents. They got an Apple notebook (completely devoid of the bullshit crapware mentioned above), it's been way more rock solid software wise than their windows PCs (admittedly pre-W7), the notebook never fucks up/hangs in standby/hibernate or whatever and they bought the rest of the Apple stuff as they went along. I didn't have to babysit their computer while visiting. Win/win.

          Apple is never going to be dell, and emulating Dell was never the reason why they got so big.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      They DID figure it out. They just don't want to produce it.

      Limiting a chipset to 2GB is deliberately crippling the product.

    • by icebike (68054)

      The problem is that the hardware companies allowed Microsoft to define what a netbook was and not the market.

      Not sure Google is allowing Microsoft to define very much regarding their Chromebooks [google.com].

    • Had I anything to do with netbook manufacture and marketing, I would have made some hardware improvements.

      • I would have upgraded to retina-class LCD displays. The netbook screen didn't need to be bigger, it needed more pixels.
      • Netbooks also need Android. I would have made every attempt to get an x86-port of Cyanogenmod, and my own app store - a critically-lauded Android that is easy to use is severely lacking. If Microsoft balked, I would have publicly ditched them.
      • I would have made netbooks with cpus more
    • Re:No Vision (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Artraze (600366) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:52PM (#42435833)

      > I'd love something the size of my Acer ZG5 that had a quad i7 and 8GB of ram

      That's not a netbook, it's an ultrabook and it's expensive as hell:
      http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834127833 [newegg.com]
      Yeah, it's 11.6" and not 8.9" but seeing as it's the same weight I don't really see that as a major issue. (I, in fact, consider it a big win since I've always thought the 9" keyboards were basically unusable.)

      > Underpowered Atom based machines with 2GB ram at nearly the price of a dual core equiped laptop.

      That is the essence of a netbook: An ultra low end computer that ran a browser, an email client and maybe a text editor. They were supposed to be cheap, but pretty much started at $200 and rose to $300 when Windows butted in. A decent laptop would run about $400, and they never really made sense for (or were intended for) anything but a sort of secondary travel-ish computer.
      (BTW, seeing as the Eee PC started with Linux and kept a Linux version through most of it's revisions, I don't really know why you say Microsoft defined the netbook design...)

      > Who wants that? No one and I can't believe they could not figure that out.

      Uh, yeah, they figured it out and that's why they aren't making them.

      But people _did_ want them. Not because they were good, but because they were cheap and somewhat because they were small. People saw them as proper laptops that were cheaper because they were smaller and not because they were just altogether cheaper. They would buy one thinking they saved $100, only to realize that they wasted $300 because it was to slow to actually do what they wanted.

      I don't believe it was intentional... I think they were introduced as trying to be the cheapest possible computer; about half the price of a normal one. Partly for travel, partly for people who didn't do much, partly for just having a computer you can use look up that actor in the TV show you're watching, and it didn't have to be your 'main computer'.

      But it turned out to be a stunning bait and switch: If you put Windows on it, you could charge $300. People would buy it thinking they were getting a new laptop. Then they'd be back in the store spending $500 six months later when they found out they needed a real machine. I think that's why they really 'took off' and were pushed so hard. They were just printing money by dramatically shortening an upgrade cycle that had stalled because proper computers had become fast enough.

      • by Macrat (638047)

        That's not a netbook, it's an ultrabook and it's expensive as hell:

        I wish I had mod points for you today. :-)

      • That is the essence of a netbook: An ultra low end computer that ran a browser, an email client and maybe a text editor.

        And an NES emulator (at full speed). And a text editor. And GNU Image Manipulation Program. And a 6502 assembler and a set of image conversion tools written in Python. And anything else that a Pentium 4 PC could run, as Atom was comparable in performance to a similarly clocked P4. You don't really need anything more than a netbook to develop a video game for a retro console, other than a way to test a nightly build on the actual console to make sure you aren't relying on emulator bugs. Developing a 2D game

    • I purchased my ZG5 as a notebook replacement in 2008, and continue to use it as such today. Twice the RAM, twice the hard drive capacity, 20% more clock speed, and a processor with twice the number of threads of the notebook it replaced at half the price. It was a reasonable purchase at the time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Acer came out with a nice netbook (AO722). 1366x768 11.6" screen, 320GB HD, chiclet keyboard with std size keys and spacing, AMD C-50 and later C-60 processor, that is faster than an atom, but sips power. $200 at Target almost 2yrs ago, but Target now only carries the intel atom version that is slower, worse battery life, and can't handle as much memory, for more money.

      Added an 8GB sodimm for $40 shipped (newegg), and it is a very nice, very small portable box with fantastic battery life for under $250.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        AMD C-50 and later C-60 processor, that is faster than an atom, but sips power. $200 at Target almost 2yrs ago, but Target now only carries the intel atom version that is slower, worse battery life, and can't handle as much memory, for more money.

        ..and people wonder why AMD cannot compete. The C-series processors have absolutely no competitors in its market for all those reasons (faster, cheaper, etc..), yet AMD still cannot gain traction due to Intels anti-competitive behavior.

      • by MachDelta (704883)

        My girlfriend has one of those Acer units with the C-50 and 2GB RAM, and it is a very nice little machine for her needs (taking notes at school). Meanwhile, I picked up an Acer a year earlier with the atom and 1GB RAM, and while it's, erm, usable... for school duties, it's no where near what the C-50 will do. Her machine will happily push a 1080p movie out the HDMI port, while the atom (which doesn't even have HDMI out) chokes horribly just trying to do 720p.
        If I could find another C-50 or C-60 Acer, I'd gl

  • by Jorl17 (1716772)
    It's "its", and that's killing my eyes. As for the subject, I believe netbooks had and still have their use but they're simply not for everyone and we've got to learn that and stop bitching about it.
  • by Teckla (630646) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:18PM (#42435501)

    I bought a netbook because I figured it could do everything a tablet could do, and more.

    It turned out to be frustratingly slow, largely due to Windows 7 needing too many resources, Microsoft putting ridiculous limitations on what kind of specs a netbook could have while still qualifying for Windows Starter 7, and the agonizingly slow hard drive (which was accessed far too often due to Windows 7 needing lots of RAM -- while at the same time, Microsoft demanding it not be allowed to have much RAM).

    Later, I bought an iPad, with a slower CPU and less RAM ... and I love it. Even though it's just a lowly iPad 2, the user experience is wonderful. I can't help but think Microsoft is partially responsible for making the iPad a success, because Microsoft were the ones responsible for ensuring a poor netbook experience. If my netbook experience hadn't sucked, I'd never have purchased an iPad.

    Wish I hadn't wasted my money on a POS netbook.

    • by kthreadd (1558445)
      The netbook I got in 2008 had an SSD and ran Linux. It wasn't fast, but it really wasn't that slow.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So, you're comparing a $200 netbook with a $500+ tablet? And spending two and a half times as much got you a better experience? Man, this reminds me of the old Kia I used to drive and then replaced with an Accord. Only two and a half times as expensive, I can't imagine why anyone would buy a cheaper car.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        You have a point, except the GP says the iPad has less CPU and less RAM than the Windows 7 netbook that had worse performance. That certainly sounds like a mismatched hardware/software combo to me. They should have just put XP on there, it is fine.
        • by Rockoon (1252108)

          except the GP says the iPad has less CPU...

          Thats what he says.. but its not reality.

  • The Atom processor is, IMO, the reason for the downfall of the netbook. Not to mention the fact that 7-10" screens are barely usable. A 11.6" screen with a decent processor (at least 2.0 Ghz i3), and a usable amount of ram (at least 4 GB) and it would have made a fantastic netbook. But Atom processors are so painfully underpowered, that using the machines was painful. My netbook died and I had to temporarily use a 10 year old Pentium 4 laptop with 256 MB of RAM, and that machine was WAY more powerful than m
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      PC users simply have more choices than that. We're not stuck with whatever singular choice one singular hardware vendor wants to ram down our throats. We have plenty of options and we can pick the one we think is right for us.

      Nothing will seem to be some sort of "dominant winner" that the single vendor crowd might be looking for.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cheesybagel (670288)
      The reason for the downfall was indeed Microsoft. The original EeePC came with a Celeron processor (not Atom) and an SSD. It had a longer battery life. Microsoft's hardware requirements made sure you couldn't use a cheap low capacity SSD but had to use an hard-disk drive with more capacity that would still be relatively cheap just so it could run their bloatware. Then there was the licensing cost Microsoft imposed on the netbook vendors which eliminated any margin the vendors were supposed to have.
    • by glsunder (241984)

      I've had good luck with HP's dm1 with an AMD e-350. I upgraded it to 8GB, and can run VMs on it. The main area where I had issues with the speed are games (though it will play GW2 at 15-20 fps) and emulating an android device under eclipse.

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:24PM (#42435565) Homepage Journal
    The list for me was pretty simple:
    • Touchpads suck
    • Windows sucks
    • Few could competently handle a presentation and a spreadsheet or word processing document being open simultaneously
    • The battery life wasn't that great compared to a regular laptop that cost and weighed only slightly more
  • I love netbooks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bytesex (112972) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:32PM (#42435647) Homepage

    They serve as ideal small computers in all sorts of laboratory set-ups. Use them as network line-debuggers, use them as front-end mockups - I just love them!

  • for linux, hence partly why i think asus is canning them. its not to say other manufacturers wont give the atom chipset a run in the same vein as asus, just that they might not call them a netbook anymore. They ran most distros with ease and had few driver problems (except the one they released with poulsbo 500 chipset, and even then issues were resolved in about 6-8 months.)

    the market for linux probably didnt pan out the way asus figured it might, and the chromebook certainly pounded a few coffin nails i

  • Reading this on my Eee makes me sad. I was hoping for an upgrade soon - like the Eee 1225b perhaps for graphics improvement. But I'd like an 11.5" screen in the same package as the 10.1. Or increasing the size a little may allow a 12" with a tad wider keyboard and that's getting into laptop size range. Those laptops cost quite a bit more but IMHO should not.
  • The conceptual purpose of a netbook is to be an extremely portable computer with good battery life that's primarily used for web browsing and media consumption, with just enough internal storage to serve as a local cache of data from the internet. They exploded in popularity when Steve Jobs figured out that touchscreens were better input devices than keyboards for that use case.
  • WaitAminute (Score:5, Informative)

    by folderol (1965326) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:51PM (#42435819) Homepage
    What's all this 'was' and 'were'? My eee901 is still going strong as an industrial tool (running debian squeeze) that helps me diagnose/configure/monitor all sorts of BIG machines. Battery life is fine, so is screen brightness and resolution. It quite happily bounces around on top of said machines while I plug in Ethernet, USB, serial over USB, and projectors (for display and education purposes). Back at the office I'm spoiled for choice as to which method I use the transfer the stored data. Oh, and this little baby, plus mouse, various leads etc. fits nicely in a padded sandwich bag.
    • What's all this 'was' and 'were'? My eee901 is still going strong

      But once your Eee PC finally bites the dust, what will you replace it with?

    • Another EEE 901 user here. I'm currently in chapter 10 of my second book, both of them written almost exclusively on my EEE and mostly outside. Try to do that with a tablet...

  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Monday December 31, 2012 @05:09PM (#42436017)
    Budget ultrabooks, Chromebooks and convertible tablets are taking the netbook's place. They all offer higher profit margins and all cater far better to a specific need. Netbooks haven't died, they've just evolved in three directions.

    If you want a ultra slim and light but cheap laptop with basic functionality, Chromebook, if you want a small light full featured laptop, ultrabook, if you want "pick up and use instantly", tablet.
  • I love my $400 Lenovo X120e. The AMD E-350 chipset is fantastic. Weighs 3.2 lbs. 6-7 hours battery life. Does pretty much everything I need to do that I would do on a laptop. Before the X120e I owned an EEE which was equally fantastic.

    They are abandoning the netbook market because the margins are too slim and the audience too few. Most people are information consumers that are happy with the tablet interface. The others tend to be professionals have the money for expensive powerful laptops with the netbook

  • by sk999 (846068) on Monday December 31, 2012 @05:52PM (#42436327)

    People forget that before netbooks appeared, the smallest regular notebooks were 12 inch models weighing nearly 4 pounds, which came at a price premium (upwards of $2K), and while smaller devices existed, they were expensive, quirky, and underpowered, yet Microsoft demanded that they only run Vista. The original eee PC obliterated the cost/weight barrier, which contributed to its extremely popularity in spite of its other shortcomings, and indicated that there was enormous latent demand for low-end mobile devices. Microsoft, demonstrating its continued cluelessness in the mobile market, took the minimal steps necessary to ensure that netbooks woudl run MS Windows, not Linux, but otherwise did nothing to promote or improve the platform, and sure enough, iPads, smartphones, and their ilk have taken over the market from the low end while pricing pressures have forced down the cost of traditional notebooks from the high end.

    My Samsung netbook [Ubuntu NBR] hits the sweet spot for a full-featured "laptop", which I absolutely need when traveling, but is small and light enough that I no longer bother to check bags, even on the smallest regional jets. It will be tough finding a replacement that works as well.

  • I love my EEEPC. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hendrikboom (1001110) on Monday December 31, 2012 @06:14PM (#42436517)

    I'm still running my ASUS 1000HE eeepc as my everyday computing device. I chose it because it was the first EEEPC that really was completely Linux-compatible, needing no proprietary drivers at all. It's easy to carry around, it runs fast enough for most of what I want to do, and I run Debian testing on it. I've never had a problem with its battery life, and am glad that ASUS emphasized good battery life instead of overpowering it with hyper-fast processors and graphics -- mostly unnecessary for what I do. Yes, there's still a Windows lurking in a small corner on the hard drive, used only for running Adobe Digital Editions because Adobe broke their promise to implement it for Linux once the publishing industry standardised on it.

    I'm not sure I want much changed about it, except maybe a bigger hard drive. But I do use sshfs to access a bulk storage machine in my basement, and that seems to take care of that. sshfs works even when I'm in a coffee shop.

    I use it mostly for writing English text and for software development. It's the machine I wrote and debugged my Pixel cup Challenge game on last summer. It contains my working monotone and git repositories and a variety of programming language implementations.

    I could use a larger screen, but only if the larger screen fits into the same form factor for carrying around in my backpack. Looking at a 18-inch screen can be good, but lugging it around isn't. I do a fair amount of writing and programming in coffee shops.

    If I were to have to replace it, I'd want another like it. Too bad if they're disappearing from the market.

    It's wonderful little machine.

  • 32-bit (castrated) intel atom (N270?)
    nvidia ion1-LE (castrated) till I gave it back it's testicles (nvidia ion LE vs. full fledged ION just a configuration issue, bios updated ) now my video playbacl is hardware accelerated
    1gb ram
    32-bit win7
    very good keyboard could compete against Thinkpads!

    it's small I take it everywhere I go, and it's fast to boot and so on...
    sad that some people don't understand the term NETBOOK

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:02PM (#42437389) Homepage

    Search Alibaba for "Netbook": [alibaba.com] "185,881 Product(s) from 2,239 Supplier(s)". You can buy individual items. "Hot sell Mini Notebook 10.2 inch laptop Atom D425 Processor 1.8G Memory 1GB HDD 160G netbook wifi camera - US $217.00 / piece " [aliexpress.com], from Shenzhen Lihaicheng Tech Co., Ltd. Many sellers will ship directly to the US. Quality may be iffy, but there are seller reputations, and it's probably no worse than eBay.

    Some of these are probably the same machines the big names were selling.

  • by markdavis (642305) on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:23PM (#42437529)

    The Netbook category was created by Asus when they made a machine that was smaller than typical, lower priced than typical, had a longer battery life than typical, had solid state storage (which was not typical), and ran Linux. The EEE-1000 (with no letter behind it) was just a fantastic machine for the money and was probably the last true Netbook.

    The Netbook died the moment the manufacturers added hard drives and replaced Linux with MS-Windows. Because at that point, they were no longer Netbooks, they were just crippled, slow, MS-Windows notebooks. They lost what made them different. The MS-Windows slowed the machine down to being unusable. It also jacked the price up a bit (and with the low prices, even a bit was significant). The hard drive made it fragile and less battery friendly and even slower still.

    I was waiting FOR YEARS for a replacement for the EEE-1000; a true Netbook without the MS-Windows tax, and with a bump of specs to match the year (more RAM, more CPU, larger solid state storage, more res, but similar price and same form-factor and battery life). It never came.

    Oh well.

    • by Arker (91948)
      They basically arrived stillborn anyway. I have one, they are wonderful machines, but you really have to handroll your own OS to get them working properly. A properly functioning netbook is a beautiful thing - they are tough and robust and just work. But the OS that shipped was just absurdly bad. It was a pain for me to get this thing working right - and for most of the market that meant they were just worthless.

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