The New Year Isn't Looking Good For The Netbook
January 1, 2013

The New Year Isn’t Looking Good For The Netbook

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

The year is just beginning, and yet the consumer electronics sector has already seen its first fatality. Asus announced yesterday that it would discontinue production of its netbook line of portable computers.

Asus was the first manufacturer to bring the netbook to market on a large scale with its Asus Eee PC line. The netbook category was launched in 2007, with the Intel Atom processor, a chip the size of a grain of rice. The smaller processor allowed for a smaller form factor and lighter workload. The netbook, however couldn't support much of a larger form factor, and as a rule, did not have an internal DVD drive.

In 2012 there were only two manufacturers of netbooks: Asus and Acer. Acer has already exited the market for netbooks, leaving only Asus as the sole manufacturer of the portable PC, for a short period. The two manufacturers are expected to sell off any remaining stock, but not take orders for new shipments.

Intel's Atom processor is expected to continue production. A handful of tablets including the Asus VivoTab Smart Tablet running Windows 8 use the Intel Atom processor.

Over time netbooks were replaced by other notebooks, as well as the popularity of tablets including the iPad and Android tablets. Notebooks and laptops have come down in price, competing with the netbook.

Another category of notebook, the Ultrabook, keeps a high price tag, but makes a case for ultra-portability. Ultrabooks use a low-power Intel Core processor and unibody chassis. The ultrabook typically relies on an internal hard drive and USB port, with no internal optical disc drive.

Notebooks, and the whole PC category, also experienced a slowdown in sales over the past year. Low sales of PCs and notebooks are attributed to increased interest in tablets.

The launch of the iPad in 2010 gave life to the tablet, a form factor that existed but never really took off. Following the iPad was a string of new consumer tablets, many running on the Android operating system. Microsoft also competes in the category with a Windows-based tablet line. With a comparable price point, the tablet quickly outpaced the netbook. The tablet offers portability and easy browsing. The lack of an actual keyboard limits its use as an input device for typing documents.

Netbooks became a popular option for a portable notebook. The category was originally defined as a notebook with an Atom processor and a screen no larger than 10-inches. Netbooks also had a limited internal hard drive and USB ports, but no internal disk drives. Popularity of the netbook influenced the trend of software download purchases, instead of retail copies of software such as Microsoft Office and virus protection software such as Norton from Symantec.

With the exit of the netbook, it is possible to call into question another category in the portable PC market, the Chromebook. Google launched the Chromebook, which runs on the search engine company's Chrome operating system and relies on an internet connection. A handful of manufacturers including Samsung and Acer produce Chromebooks. Google is rumored to be in development with its own Chromebook. While the Chromebook has enjoyed limited popularity in the U.S. and Europe, its low price point and light operating system is targeted as an inexpensive computer to be distributed in developing countries.