The end of the Netbook era
According to a report from the Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/dec/31/netbooks...) as of January 1, 2013 both Asus and Acer will not make anymore netbooks. If you recall the term netbook first showed up around 2007 when Asus introduced the Eee PC, more specifically the Eee PC 701 (gdgt.com/asus/eee/pc/701/). A lot of people felt the netbook market would take off and usher in a new form of mobile computing but that dream quickly faded.
It's probably hard to pinpoint the exact reason the netbooks never took off but I'm sure you can point a few key product releases over the last 5 years as culprits. First and foremost the Macbook Air which debuted in 2008. While it is big comparative to todays model Apple showed you don't have to reduce a laptop down 7-inches to make it portable; this also spawned the ultrabook class of laptops we're seeing everywhere now. Then there is the evolution of the cell phone and which now amounts to being a powerful computer that is small enough to fit in your pocket. And of course lets not forget the boom of tablet devices from both Apple and Android OEMs.
While most came and went I think the most memorable one will always be the Inspiron Mini 10. For those that remember the Mini 10 had all the right hardware to allow for an easy Hackintosh build. This meant for under $400 you could have a 10-inch laptop running OSX. Unfortunately their lifespan, like most netbooks, was short lived and by time the next model came out the process became more difficult.
To me the netbook never seemed like a practical option for any professional or even for most home users. While the size was fun and made it easy to bring anywhere there were a lot of limitations. First and foremost the screen size. Running a resolution of 1024x600 is small as it is but when you put it on a 10-inch screen everything becomes even more cramped. There was also the issue of just general size, these things were cramped. At only 7-10-inches wide they made it difficult to type on and use the touchpad, more or less eliminating any practical use of the device. That is just my opinion though and I know a lot of people loved them.
This is just how technology works, though, trends come and go. As the Netbook leaves the world of technology some other device will move in as the next "big thing" and we'll all watch to see what happens. So with that I will raise my USB drive loaded with Ubuntu and bid farewell to the little platform that could.
I do have fond memories of Ubuntu, learning about kernels, upgrading to an SSD & having a very lightweight laptop.
The netbook has taught me, you get what you pay for.
Laptops have become lighter--> MBA is a good example of a popular 13 inch platform
In the birth of netbooks many laptop were a heavy 15-17 inches and battery was poor. That form factor still exists, but I'm seeing a shift away from 17 inch models for sure.
Desktops were not mobile. Still true in practice, but there are some desktops like the Mac mini that you can simply throw in a backpack if you have a monitor/tv at the place you will be staying away from home.
Tablets were not popular, nor did they really exist. The iPad was the #1 thing on Xmas lists this past season and personally I use my iPad much more than my personal laptop. When relatives ask me if I want their old netbook, I simply say, "What would I use it for? I have an iPad."
Smartphones weren't powerful enough. Now we have dual and quad core computers in our pockets that we can use to call people for telephone like conversations. The smartphone, or whatever it is to be called next is the most exciting device category in tech.
The newest netbooks are the chromebooks so I don't exactly believe that the category is dead, but I also don't distinguish a ultrabook from a laptop. A netbook is a separate category to me, because it uses a bastardized OS and has a screen less than 10 inches. Cheap laptops will exist as long as laptops exist. The smaller form factor has simply been replaced by stronger categories that lacked some crossover in market segmentation that allowed Netbooks to seem worthwhile.
I've never owned one, but man netbooks are frustrating to use. That's why they're dead. I am much happier to have an iPad than carry around a midget laptop.
I do believe that laptops will be replaced at some point by peripherals attached to smartphones or tablets. The Asus Eee Transformer is a perfect example and the Lenovo Yoga is the next iteration of such. Branding one as a tablet and the other as a laptop is just price semantics though. Selling a tablet as a laptop replacement means it must be cheaper than selling a laptop as a tablet replacement.
I've stated this before and I'll echo again that soon we will have a popular way to plug in our phone to a tablet shell to continue our experience on a tablet form factor. And also the ability to plug in to a laptop shell, possibly with a projector included, to continue this same experience in a laptop and possibly desktop form factor. Last year a company introduced a product called Lightpad. Maybe they'll show an improved version this year!
Check this out
On top of that, tablets hit the mainstream in the form of inexpensive android tabs, and game changing iPads. For the around the same price of a netbook, one could grab a more portable device with a much more unique feature set.
The netbook was in theory a great concept, and still is. Unfortunately, more portable devices exist, and less expensive options are out there.
I am sad to say, though, that this is the only time I take it out of my bag. There was a time when it made a nice portable coffee shop computer for writing, but I find I now prefer using my Nexus 7 with a bluetooth keyboard for that. And for any other use that does not warrant my full-size laptop, I am finding I prefer the Nexus 7 or my phone. It was great for its day, I used mine a lot and loved it, but I must grudgingly admit that the utility of this form factor has faded to only very niche categories that aren't large enough in demand to justify continued manufacturing. And at this point, if I were in the market for another light clamshell device, I would probably just buy a Google Chromebook and dual-boot it Chrome OS and Linux.
My little Acer has definitely earned a place, though, in my list of favorite gadgets I have owned.
I guess the netbook might be less critical in a more standard environment where everything was designed in from the get-go. Here on this campus, everything is retro-fit and there are some fairly precarious situations. So maybe this niche is even smaller than I thought. :D
I bought my netbook because I didn't want to lug around my bigger laptop that had crappy battery life, so I thought that a netbook would be a much better travel computer. While the small size was definitely great, the low-res screen and pretty crappy performance killed the experience.
In comes the iPad with its really snappy performance, great battery life, and an even smaller form factor. While I couldn't run full desktop apps like I could on a netbook, an iPad accomplished 95% of what I wanted out of a portable computing device. Of course, more and more tablets hit the market filling in the need/want for large screen portable computing and the desire for netbooks waned.
I think that netbooks were ultimately a stopgap measure; they gave people a taste of computing cheap and small while companies further improved on ultrabooks, tablets, and cellphones. The fact that many people feel the need to buy keyboards for their 10-inch tablets shows there was never anything inherently wrong with the size, just the form factor.