The last two major netbook manufacturers, Acer and Asus, are closing the doors on these mini-laptops. According to Digitimes' Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai, Acer "has no plans to release more netbook products" such as its Aspire One, while Asus has already ended its Eee PC line.
Other netbook manufacturers, such as Samsung, have long since abandoned the market.
Why netbooks failed to catch on
Netbooks were "still enjoying strong sales" as late as 2010, according to an optimistic report by ABI Research. But the growth trend which it predicted flattened out and declined, thanks to four factors pointed out by the Guardian's Charles Arthur.
Not worth it for many, compared to notebooks
One is that the original, Linux-based netbooks failed to catch on, as they had trouble running Windows PC software. But Microsoft charged between $30 and $50 for each netbook's Windows license, and insisted that the new crop of Windows netbooks be larger and more expensive than the original Linux-based models. This placed them in close competition with low-end laptops, the prices of which were going down instead of up.
The rise of the iPad
The other biggest factor is that the iPad and Android tablets took the place of netbooks for many buyers. While Apple's iPad was the price of a full-sized laptop, the company soon introduced discounted or refurbished versions ... as well as the smaller, $329 iPad Mini, which doesn't cost much more than most netbooks. Besides that, the whole iPad line was even lighter than netbooks and had longer battery life, besides being more responsive and having more popular apps.
Meanwhile, companies like Amazon and Barnes and Noble made $199 Kindle and Nook tablets, which beat out even the original $249 Linux-based Asus Eee's price tag.
A little bit bigger, a lot better
During the netbook's heyday, many called for Apple to make one of its own. As Apple tech expert John Gruber pointed out, however, netbooks were "cheaper, not better," which contradicted Apple's business model of selling high-margin, premium products.
When Apple did release a small laptop computer, it was the $999 11-inch MacBook Air, which went on to be a best-seller. Other PC manufacturers tried to follow in Apple's footsteps with Intel's "Ultrabook" specification, which is basically a recipe for MacBook Air clones that run Windows, but so far have failed to make a dent in the market.
Taking the place of netbooks
Besides Ultrabooks, the other notable netbook-like computers on the market right now are Chromebooks, ultralight laptops which start at $199 and run a slimmed-down OS based on Google's Chrome web browser. Former netbook manufacturers Samsung and Acer are both making Chromebooks, while Asus manufactured Google's popular Nexus 7 tablet.Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
- Technology & Electronics