The netbook is dead. Rejoice!
The product category seemed clever when it first launched in 2007. It was deemed as a smaller, more agile laptop—a product that filled a gap between a smartphone and a notebook.
Tech companies were wise to observe this gap; it most definitely existed. But netbooks were not the right product to fill it.
Before Apple unveiled the iPad and really did change everything (again), research firms posted extremely optimistic numbers with regards to the future of netbooks. And as recently as 2011, netbook shipments managed to grow (although only by 12%, a mere fraction of tablet growth).
But 2012 really slammed netbooks where it hurts. By the end of last year, pretty much every Apple competitor had released multiple tablets, and Apple released both a fourth-generation iPad and a first-generation iPad Mini.
Wireless keyboards hook up to tablets easily via Bluetooth, and there are even detachable keyboards for many tablets that transform them into “netbooks” in a flash. So where does the netbook belong? Nowhere.
But a product isn’t truly dead until manufacturers literally stop making them. And that’s what has finally happened.
Acer and Asus, two of the only companies left still mass producing the miniature notebooks, have both decided to cease production. The two vendors will make no more netbooks after current inventories diminish, sources say.
In hindsight, the netbook was a pretty weak product. A permanently affixed keyboard and no touchscreen meant it was really just a super tiny laptop, which doesn’t really serve much of a purpose for most people. Tablets are lighter, slicker, and all about intuitive touch experiences—the in-between product that companies had been looking for all along.