Why aren’t we talking about netbooks anymore?
It wasn’t that long ago that everyone in the edtech world was talking about cheap netbooks and how they would revolutionise learning and change education forever.
Where are those netbooks now?
Back in the autumn of 2007, Asus launched their Asus EeePC. I managed to get my hands on one in February 2008; 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!
In 2008 everyone was talking about how wonderful the netbooks were and that finally here was a device that would revolutionise the use of learning technologies in the classroom.
It wasn’t long though before the “issues” started to arise. Screen size and keyboard size meant that before long the 7” netbook started to grow and today when we look at netbooks in most computer retailers, they have 10” screens and almost full size keboards. In a similar manner, the “free” operating system wasn’t liked by users or consumers and now virtually all netbooks come with Windows 7. The Linux revolution touted by some never happened. Also the storage limitations, the original EeePC only came with 2GB of storage, meant that the robust flash memory was replaced by more delicate hard drives so that users could have the storage needed to do what they wanted on the device. Another big issue was battery life, for some netbooks, 90 minutes was the norm, this meant that the portability of the device was sacrificed as you needed to be connected to the wall by the power cable.
The final nail in the coffin though has to be the MacBook Air and the Ultrabooks, which take us full circle back to the £1000 sub-notebooks that the netbooks were suppose to replace. These devices with their solid state drives, full size(ish) keyboards and high res screens.
Perhaps another nail in the coffin came from the release of the iPad in 2010, we suddenly realised that we didn’t want a cheap netbook, what we actually wanted was a tablet.
Market research firm ABI Research reports that Q2 2011 global tablet shipments rose to 13.6 million units, compared to just 7.3 million netbooks. (Pinola 2011)
It’s not to say that netbooks are dead just yet, they are still for sale but we’re not talking about them in the same way that we are talking about iPads and tablets.
Are people using netbooks? Yes they are, people I know who have one, really like it.
Are they embedded into our educational institutions? No.
Have they revolutionised education as predicted in 2008? No.
Have we stopped talking about them? Yes.
Have they lost their shinyness? Yes!