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Does 2012 Mark the End of the Netbook? 336

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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  • Re:2010 was the end (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:15PM (#42435441)

    I don't think that's a fair assessment. I'm a system administrator and bought one of these to help around the server room. It's much more than a cheap toy.

  • 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.

  • Re:2010 was the end (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:28PM (#42435603)

    I agree. The netbook was nothing but a quick bait and switch by manufacturers that wanted to make a quick buck off of the recession. The image of a business person using a netbook is just that. Users of netbooks were people with little money looking for a new toy, and nothing more.

    They aren't a desktop replacement. Normal laptops can be, but netbooks aren't (although I have stretched one to it, with a 24" monitor and keyboard.... worked alright, slightly underpowered but not terribly so for simple work). They never were intended to be. They were intended to be super light-weight, super small, super mobile, and have long battery life with decent specs. For portable web use, nothing was better. Tablets? Sure, if you never intend to type anything and don't mind cradling it uncomfortably in your arms, plus paying quite a lot more for similar or less power.

    What killed the netbook was the manufacturers. They wanted higher margins, which meant shoving in more features and power (mostly completely unnecessary). That kills the battery life, raises cost, and completely destroys the whole point of the device. But the original netbooks, for simple web usage, email browsing, and light document editing? Incredibly useful.

  • 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!

  • 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.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:54PM (#42435843)
    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.
  • Re:No Vision (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:54PM (#42435845)

    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. That includes the windows tax (it came pre-installed with windows that, of course, was immediately erased, but was still part of the price tag).

    I would not want a 4 core i7 in this form factor. I want good battery life, a keyboard an adult can type on, reasonable screen resolution with a low enough cost that I wouldn't be devastated if something bad happened to it. The C-50 in my netbook gives me enough speed (not running windows nor a pig of a window manager/desktop like gnome or kde) and sips battery (with little effort to tune for power savings, I am getting 10W light load-12W maximum total system power including screen with backlight measured with a kill-a-watt).

    Unfortunately, windows makes this very capable box into a dog, and that is what most folks are going to be judging the hardware by.

  • 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??

  • Sicked in my mouth (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tuppe666 ( 904118 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @05:32PM (#42436183)

    My next purchase will be an 11" Macbook Air.

    I gave serious consideration to the iPads, Nexus, et al, but
    in the end I need a machine which doesn't limit what I can do.

    Your seriously going to mention a $1000 next to a $200, that is completely different form factor. I bought a nexus 7 because it didn't limit me like the Air notice it now can run Ubuntu and WebOS as well as Stock Android, that does not sound limiting to me...and I can buy 5 for the price of the macbook air...no wonder people have stopped buying them.

  • there was no large market for ultra-portables with no power.

    "No power"? An Atom could do everything that a comparably clocked P4 could do. I use mine for lightweight Python programming. I bought a 10" because it fits in a bag that isn't an obvious "mug me" magnet.

    People buying ultra-portables were used to paying $5000

    Once my $300 10" laptop finally breaks, I'll be severely disappointed if I have to pay $5,000 to replace it.

  • 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 hazem ( 472289 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @10:55PM (#42438507) Journal

    Netbooks and tablets, while seeming to be similar, are really designed for very different uses. A tablet is designed to conusme media and it's really good for that. A netbook is essentially a scaled-down laptop that allows you to produce things as well as consume them.

    I have an Acer netbook, and a Nexus 7. The tablet is great as a "carry it around with me" computing device that lets me browse the internet, keep up with my email, write short replies, etc. It's also great for watching videos, and even reading books. Even better, it does all this and will last 8 hours or more on a single charge. This is fantastic if you're spending a day in an airport and on planes. It's an entertainment device that also allows for some productivity. And sure, I can do much of this on my small andriod phone, having the larger screen makes it enjoyable to use.

    The netbook, on the other hand, is a lightweight and portable working computer. It's great if you have some place to sit down and actually use it. But it's not so handy when you're standing on a train or trying to look something up quickly. I use mine for school and have done quite a bit of programming on it. I put Linux Mint on it, and frankly, I think it IS sexy, especially when I can run Virtualbox to do whatever windows things I need to do.

    If I had to give up one, I'd grudgingly give up the tablet. Though I'd strongly consider giving up the netbook and my larger laptop (home computer) for a smaller but more powerful laptop and keep the tablet.

    It's not a matter of people being sheep, but wanting to do different things. A friend of mine was complaining for quite a while that her old laptop was slow and wanted me to work on it. She got a larger android phone and stopped talking about her laptop. Pretty much everything she needed to do computer-wise was on her phone - and for her, a netbook wouldn't fit her needs as well as her min-tablet phone.

Neutrinos have bad breadth.