We learned recently that Dell decided to discontinue selling Netbooks. Netbooks? You remember them – the small, inexpensive notebook-like computers with a lightweight operating system. They came in a few different flavors of Windows and Linux. They were the rage a few years ago, but Microsoft killed them.
I bought one – by Asus. It has a lightweight version with Linux. It worked pretty well, but it was too small. I found the screen and keyboard just awkward. I had planned to buy a full size netbook with Windows 7 – the upcoming generation.
The reason they took off was a combination of price and cloud. People like me don’t have much data on their hard drives any more. This blog, my email, Twitter, FB, etc – are all in the cloud. I have lots of windows open, but they are all browser tabs. This is, by the way, the reason I am a PC and not a Mac. I agree Mac’s offer a superior end user experience, but since the browser is pretty much the same and the price isn’t, I use a browser on a PC. Back to the Netbook, it turned out I wasn’t alone – for those that wanted a cheap device to get online – the Netbook won. So much so that netbook’s started eating into the sales of notebooks (cir 2009). See Notebook Sales Flatten, While Netbooks Surge. They were the perfect cloud device, small, portable, and cheap.
The boom of the Netbook was not something Microsoft was happy about. Too many people were buying them over full versions of Windows on real laptops. The Windows versions were running a version of XP that was very inexpensive. With Windows 7, Microsoft made some license changes and restricted netbooks to miniature computers, specifically the screen had to be 10.1″ or smaller. I never bought another netbook.
Sure there was a Linux version, but it was a pain in the rear. It just added unnecessary complications. For example, I also had my iPod on a trip and wanted to use the USB port on the netbook for charging. But the pre-installed Linux music app took note of my iPod and somehow corrupted my music on the iPod. There were other problems too – a Windows based netbook is what I wanted.
So now the netbook is officially dead – and the articles are saying the tablet did it. It is sort of true in that tablets are booming and no one wants a netbook, but for the record Dell doesn’t make a tablet either. Both tablets and Netbooks are cloud devices and run about $500. It’s that simple. People are willing to pay $500 for a low maintenance cloud device. There were none, then came the netbook and it took off, and then there were none and then came the iPad. The tablet is superior over the netbook in many ways – as is whatever comes is state of the art in two years will be superior to current options.
But had Microsoft embraced the netbook – and lightweight $500 cloud ready devices were flourishing – potentially even an appstore like environment for them – Apple would have had a tougher time. The iPad rocks, and I don’t mean to take anything away from its success – just don’t tell me it killed the netbook. It sealed the deal, but Microsoft killed the netbook with Windows 7.
- Dell pulls out of netbook market (linuxfordevices.com)
- Dell Quits The Netbook Market (netbookcrunch.com)
- Why Does the Netbook Still Exist? (dailyfinance.com)
- Dell Ditches Netbooks (allthingsd.com)