The Netbook is Dead

Back in the autumn of 2007, Asus launched their Asus EeePC. I managed to get my hands on one in February; a small form factor PC running Xandros (Linux) with a 7″ screen.

There had been small laptops before, but they were usually around £2000, the Asus EeePC was less than £200!

What do you use your computer for?

Photo source.

Before long, lots of other companies had jumped on the bandwagon, Dell, HP, even Sony started offering a cheap netbook. Notably Apple didn’t!

In November 2008 we recorded a podcast on the impact of the Asus EeePC and other netbooks; this was at the height of their popularity.

However it wasn’t long before the honeymoon was over. Only in March I was writing about some of the issues I had had with the very small netbooks.

Though I liked the Asus EeePC the keyboard was rather too small for me and I know others found it difficult to type large amounts of text on it. The HP 2133 was well suited to those who found the smaller micro-laptops too much of a microscopic size.

It was also back then we started to see the feature creep and added functionality with newer netbooks, in the same blog post I wrote.

However no point in recommending the HP 2133 as HP have decided to withdraw that model. Their replacement, the HP 2140 has a similar form factor to the 2133, included the nice keyboard, but now has a10.1″ screen. You have to ask is it a micro-laptop or is really no longer that form factor and more a subnotebook now?

We also started to see rising prices too. But the devices were popular with learners and practitioners. At most e-learning events too they were awash with netbooks.

However here we are two years after the launch of the Asus EeePC and the netbook is effectively dead, or will be dead soon!

The BBC reports that:

Rising prices and better alternatives may mean curtains for netbooks.

The small portable computers were popular in 2009, but some industry watchers are convinced that their popularity is already waning.

“The days of the netbook are over,” said Stuart Miles, founder and editor of technology blog Pocket Lint.

There are now no netbooks with 7″ screens, very few with 8.9″ screens, most are now coming with bigger screens, at least 10.1″ and sometimes larger. The original netbooks came with small flash based drives, often 2, 4 or 8 GB. This was fine for browsing or word processing, but not sufficient for video or audio. So manufacturers started putting in large traditional hard drives. HP pulled Linux from their netbooks back in February, and that was down to consumer demand, consumers wanted Windows and couldn’t handle or like the Linux OS. In my experience, though I did like Xandros, I found the SUSE on the HP netbooks difficult to use and (bizarrely) unreliable. One of the big issues with the netbook was that it was underpowered which meant it was unsuitable for internet video; as a result manufacturers started putting in more memory and more powerful chips.

The netbook as envisgaed by Asus and imitated by others, is now effectively dead. Most netbooks you buy now are effectively normal laptops, maybe a little smaller…

So what does this mean for learners and learning?

A fair few learners did buy netbooks, but many more bought traditional laptops, as they preferred the “better” user experience over the netbook. Netbooks for most users were as a second computer; learners were more likely to have a single computer and needed something more powerful. Netbooks often did not have the power to deal with media-rich learning content. However the death of the netbook means that there is not the choice that learners did have.

Or is there?

Newer technologies can result in more choice. For a lot of people I know the iPhone has replaced their netbook, and with the introduction of a large iPhone-esque Tablet device by both Apple and Microsoft in 2010 we may have a new style of netbook, a tabletnetbook!

7 thoughts on “The Netbook is Dead”

  1. Although the original model is dead, I think that the point they are converging on now is ideal for education. Less than 10″ screens are hard work reading web pages, so much scrolling! They also enable a reasonable sized keyboard. Power levels are now enough to happily run Office. This combined with the advances in power consumption meaning much improved battery life have hit a sweet spot in my opinion.

    10″ screens, 5+ hours genuine battery life and sub £350 price points are ideal for school use.

    Similar priced laptops often have a cheaper build and woeful batteries for little more advantage than a bigger screen.

  2. Your definition of ‘netbook’ seems to allow for no evolution of the concept. The original 7″ Linux variant might well be dead – but 10.1″ machines running Windows (which still seem to me to fall under the title of netbook – at least, that is how they are sold!) are very much alive. No?

    1. I would say the concept of the netbook has evolved (back) into what is called a laptop. The original netbook was a unique animal. 10″ laptops running Windows are not new, I used one regularly nine years ago!

      But it is all language in the end, if we call it a netbook, then it is a netbook.

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