Whatever happened to the Netbook?

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  1. #1
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    Default Whatever happened to the Netbook?

    Sources are saying that the Netbook is dead. Asus is no longer making eePCs and both Acer and Asus are just allowing their stocks to dwindle until they are all gone.

    Or at least it *seems* that way, The classic Netbook seems gone, at least by its technical definition --- Atom powered, Linux or Windows 7 Starter edition, screens no bigger than 11", no optical drive.

    Asus certainly got rid of its eePC name, but wait, it just seems they replaced the name with a whole series of budget notebooks under a different name. There is the X101, the X201, the X301, the X401 and the X501. The X101 and X201 are definitely netbook sized. The X101 is even Atom powered and it just appears to be the eePC renamed. The other three appear as hybrids, with thin notebook or ultrabook characteristics but with low budget plastic construction, Celeron or Intel B Pentium series powered, and lacking an optical drive. These have entered the traditional netbook pricing areas but offer much more screen and keyboard real estate, much faster processors and a handling mobility similar to an ultrabook.

    Acer's netbook line falls under the AspireOne name. Recently however, these series have morphed with AMD processors, Intel i3, Celeron and Pentium B chips, moving up to Windows 7 64 bit to Windows 8 at least. Technically, they are leaving the artificial netbook category, into the organic small and thin budget notebook category.

    We can attribute and blame many factors for the phenomenal rise and fall of the netbook. One of them is the active competition from tablets, starting with iPads to the cheap Android tablets, the latter in some sense, becoming the new netbook concept --- cheap affordable device for Internet access. Another is the collapse of the structure behind the PC price market, where poor sales leads to rapid discounting along with an influx of thin, low cost notebooks. The Ultrabooks maybe one factor, but with their prices, sales have only been moderate.

    Some of the faults may have been self inflicted --- despite the "netbook" term, these devices are less than optimized for quick Internet use. Smaller screens lead to a less than optimal browsing experience, with the permanence of the landscape mode. Tablets can easily shift to a portrait mode which leads to viewing much of a webpage even on a 7" screen. Netbooks have difficult to type keyboards, small batteries that limit their endurance, and weak processors that lead to long boot up types. Even worst, the limited amount of RAM, mainly 1Gb to 2Gb, limit the number of pages or tabs in a browser before the performance rapidly deteriorates.

    (will add more to my rant later on)
    Last edited by Drillbit; 01-12-2013 at 11:30 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Any sense as to how much the chromebook might be taking a piece of the netbook picture?
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  3. #3
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    The latest generation of Chromebooks seem to be selling like crazy. Dealers seem to be either sold out or low in stock. Referring to the ARM based Samsung Series 3 and the Acer C7. The 'expensive' Chromebook, the Samsung Series 5 with the Celeron is too expensive even by netbook standards and thus not selling too well.

    I think Chromebooks are still too limited in supply and distribution to make an impact yet. But I like what I see. Faster than Atom performance, HD screens, super fast boot up times, Ultrabook thin form factors, Mac like keyboards with dedicated browser buttons including return and forward keys and for search.

    I like Asus and Dell to get into that picture. Both are already selling Linux based netbooks and PCs which suggest both are amenable to non Windows options. (In the case of Asus, Meego netbooks).

    I see Chromebooks not as a cause of netbook decline but a step forward in their evolution, much like birds evolved from surviving dinosaurs.

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  4. #4
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    In irony, there is a combination of three factors that hurt the internet capabiliies of netbooks, their basic function.

    First, desperate to prevent netbooks from cannibaizing more expensive notebooks, Microsoft forced that all Atom (note Intel Atom, not AMD Vision or Intel Celeron or Pentium) devices must use only Windows 7 Starter Edition. To my surprise, and honestly I found out the hard way, is that Windows 7 Starter Edition is only limited to 2Gb of RAM.

    Second, with the same motive as above, Intel wanted devices using the Atom to have a physical limit of 2Gb. As a result, many Atom devices have 1 or 2Gb soldered on board. Some have a single DIMM slot, but changing the 1Gb or 2Gb DIMM to a 4Gb one still means you use only up to 2Gb, thanks to the OS limits stated above.

    The first two factors, however, can be bypassed by using an AMD chip, or an Intel Celeron (B-8xx series) or Pentium (B-9xx series).

    The third is one of unintended consequence --- the growth of Google Chrome. Google Chrome has been spearheading HTML5 capability, getting higher scores than any other desktop browser, and unlike other browsers, are putting each web page in a separate process, creating a sandbox for each web process. This adds security. But overall, the browser has a growing memory requirement that when used in 1, or even 2Gb, having so many tabs open create deterioration of performance. While Chromebooks themselves don't contain so much RAM, they also have a minimal OS, not like Windows with a number of apps open. One can also use Firefox, but Chrome is a popular browser all to itself, and something that calls itself a Netbook is expected to run every browser sell, not make excuses or exceptions.

    But of course, you can get 4Gb for your Chrome if your cheap netbook or notebook has an AMD, Celeron or Pentium processor instead of an Atom.

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Whatever happened to the Netbook?

    So the blogosphere are sounding off on the Death of the Netbook. It just seems to me, just evolved into different forms. What's for certain is the permanence of a number of factors, and for this, the Netbook Revolution is indeed successful. Thanks to Netbooks, these things have become certain.

    1. Before Netbooks, laptops were costing over a thousand dollars, often much more, sometimes discounted under. Netbooks forced notebook prices to fall under $500 and even reach the $200 mark. And this is going to stay with us as permanent as the industry itself. The massive lowering of prices created a vast new market for PCs, especially in the emerging world, as well as for those who previously cannot afford one in the developed nations. And with it, a vast surge in the Web that fed the Internet powers: Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Amazon... Even with the mobile revolution, nearly 90% of page hits still comes from a PC.

    2. An emphasis for simplicity, thinness, power economy and mobility. Reaction to the Netbook led to the MacBook Air and the Ultrabooks, then gradually to the thinning of the mainstream notebook, the birth of convertible hybrids, and even the joining of the netbook with the ultrabook. The evolutionary tree continues to add new branches like the AMD spec Sleekbooks, the ARM Smartbooks and the Google Chromebooks. The Netbook also created a subindustry for very low power processors, as seen with the AMD Bravo and Vision processors, the new Intel Celerons and Pentiums.

    3. The 11" screen factor will remain with us. This is a balanced compromise between viewing size, typing ease, cost and mobility.

    4. The gradual obsolescence of the Optical Drive.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Whatever happened to the Netbook?

    I suppose with the death of the netbook, the name of this forum will have to change again. At one time, it had UMPC in its title.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Whatever happened to the Netbook?

    I guess not. The term 'Netbook' will stay for a while, if not a long time. Its such an easy, recognizable word for retailers to use to describe cheap notebooks, even if they no longer meet the technical description of a netbook.
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    I guess there is also the fifth. Number 5 is the permanent public addiction and expectation for a cheap computer.

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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Whatever happened to the Netbook?

    PC manufacturers and component suppliers like Intel took quite a hit on the results on the last quarter. Some are calling it the demise of the PC, or the PC itself will be next after Blackberry. After years of straight growth, the PC market took a dip last year amidst growing smartphone and tablet sales.

    But I love notebooks and I don't think they are going away. Fundamental mechanics are happening. Since 2007, notebooks have plateaued and they are living much longer. They are getting thinner, cheaper, somewhat faster, but basically there isn't that much change to justify their obsolescence in duty and their disposal. So those who have them, are keeping them for longer times and finding means to upgrade them either in hardware, like memory, or even in the software.

    A lot of the PC sales these last few years were from netbooks, and a lot of Windows 7 sales were submerged with them. When the netbook market collapsed, that probably took quite a chunk. Touchscreen PCs seem to be doing okay, but it seems to me they are relatively scarce so its easy for demand to overtake supply in the first place. But touchscreen notebooks are still fairly expensive. They need to go down under the $500 mark, or face continued disruption from tablets.

    The Netbook is dead in classical terms (Atom powered, up to 10" screen size, Atom powered), replaced by its evolutionary descendants, the Ultrabook, the Convertible or Hybrid, the Sleekbook which are cheap notebooks using AMD, and a new breed of netbook cheap, ultrathin notebooks that border the line between ultrabook, notebook and netbooks. But there are still doubts it can endure the tablet onslaught. The real inheritors of the Netbook spirit are cheap tablets. And finally there is also the rise of the Chromebook.

    Some people are looking that the answer lies in convergence, like between tablet and notebook, to create convertibles and hybrids. Under an environment of curation and disruption, I don't think convergence is the answer. People are not just looking for a cheaper device, they are also looking for simpler ones, hence disruption and curation. There is a growing concern in the PC industry that good times are gone, and that they have to adapt or go out like a dinosaur, by making Windows 8 hybrids, cheap Android tablets and even possibly, Chromebooks.

    For the last few years, I like using netbooks because of their mobility. Even on a desktop, I like using netbooks. And nettops too. At least in my room and in my house and in my office, they are not going away that easily.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Whatever happened to the Netbook?

    I haven't owned a desktop PC in several years. My desktop is now my Asus eee-pc 900, with an external keyboard and monitor. Running Debian, it's plenty fast and capable enough for that. It's also my file server, with an external HDD connected. My everyday computer is my Asus Transformer Prime, which works well enough as a touchscreen laptop, especially with the long battery life. I've found there is little that I need to do that I can't do with it. What I can't do on the tablet, I can do with my Linux netbook. I have no need for a desktop, and certainly not for any Windows machine. I don't expect to ever buy one of those again, and probably not any Intel-powered device. There just isn't enough bang for the buck there.

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