Jan 09, 2012

What does the future look like for netbooks?

Netbooks seem to me to be at the point where they will either disappear, or alternatively surge in prominence thanks to the rise of cloud computing. Sure Dell is getting out of the netbook business, but Asus is jumping in. So who is right? Are netbooks set to be a thing of the past or the next big thing (again)?


I own an HP mini netbook, and it is now my primary computer. I take it everywhere, as it is a lot easier to carry around than a laptop. Of course, I ditched Windows within a few hours of buying it, and switched to Linux. While I can boot seven distributions of Linux between the internal drive and external drive, I primarily use openSUSE 12.1 with the Plasma Netbook Workspace. When I want to watch a move, I just connect it to my TV, run the move in its workspace, and continue to work on the netbook.


I also have a rooted Nook Color tablet, and have looked at getting another tablet. The problem is that tablets do not have the internal storage that I need, and do not have enough USB ports. I definitely would not get one that did not have a docking station and external keyboard. Typing on a tablet is just too slow. So far, I have not found a tablet that can replace what I do on my netbook. I have not found a laptop that is easy to carry around as a netbook. I no longer own a desktop, and rarely use my laptop.


Too big to be pocket portable and too small to be comfortable for heavy use.  I think the big problem for netbooks is tablets, as jimlynch noted, especially with the keyboard/hardcase options that are available.  Netbooks and tablets fill many of the same needs, and with the keyboard/hardcase for the tablet, I can't think of many advantages for the netbook.  Another problem has been definitional; exactly what is a netbook?  An underpowered, small laptop that may cost as much as a tablet or larger, more powerful laptop is what it means to me.  Still a netbook can do most of what consumers use their computers for (kitten photos, anyone?), and the keyboard can be an advantage over a tablet.  In the end, I don't think netbooks will be a big seller in the future unless cost comes down and power goes up. 

It might be that the rise of the tablet could be speeding the demise of the netbook. Tablets do most of the things that people need netbooks for and they are lighter and easier to carry. After owning an iPad for a while, I'd never buy a netbook.

So I guess you'd have to figure out what niche is really left for a netbook. Laptops & tablets both do everything you can do with a netbook. If you don't need the full capabilities of a laptop then chances are you'd buy a nice, light tablet to tote around with you.

That really doesn't leave much space for a netbook.
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