Netbooks were supposed to be the future of portable computing.
As smaller, thinner and lighter versions of traditional laptop
computers, netbooks were designed to be an energy-friendly,
cost-effective alternative to expensive PCs. Consumers were
receptive to the idea but apprehensive of the price. Netbooks
initially retailed for upwards of $300. Many of them, including
high-end models from Dell (NASDAQ:
) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:
), retailed for more than $400. For an additional $100 to $300,
consumers could buy a full-size laptop instead.
After testing the first- and second-generation netbooks,
consumers learned that while the battery life was great (many of
them could run for at least four hours), the processing power was
not. This made it difficult to do anything more than surf the Web,
check e-mail and write documents. The latter task was hindered by
the smaller frame and awkward keyboard shape that most netbooks
provided. Consumers with large hands were particularly bothered by
Regardless, tech companies continued to push the netbook format
for quite some time. That began to change after Apple (NASDAQ:
) unveiled the remodeled MacBook Air in 2010. The computer may not
have been revolutionary, but it was thinner and lighter than most
on the market. It also came with a solid state hard drive, enabling
it to load programs faster and move in and out of standby in
Apple released the 2010 MacBook Air in two sizes: 13-inch and
11-inch. The latter was about the size of a netbook, but the price
(starting at $1,000) was closer to that of a full-size computer.
Apple got away with this pricing structure because the Air was so
much more powerful than any other PC in its class. The light weight
and reliable storage option (solid state drives do not have any
moving parts) added to the Air's appeal.
The Air was not the only game-changing product released two
years ago. In 2010, Apple also introduced the first iPad. With a
starting price of $500, the iPad was only slightly more expensive
than a high-end netbook.
Fast-forward to 2012, the year in which Apple announced that the
iPad had sold more than 100 million units worldwide. At the same
time, worldwide netbook sales
continue to decline
Dell and Hewlett-Packard are among the major manufacturers that
no longer produce netbooks. According to
, Acer and Asus will soon follow suit and cease production of new
Apple no doubt started the trend that killed the notebook, but
it is not the only company responsible. Intel (NASDAQ:
), which announced its Ultrabook initiative in 2011, has been
trying to build processors for a lower-cost MacBook Air competitor.
Some of the older Ultrabooks, which typically started in the $1,000
price range, now retail for roughly $700. They may not be as small
or as cheap as a netbook, but Ultrabooks tend to be much better
In addition to the efforts of Apple, Intel and other
manufacturers, the death of netbooks must also be placed on the
netbooks themselves. No matter how much money consumers were
willing to spend, they rarely lived up to expectations. In addition
to the cheaper plastics, weak touch pads and uncomfortable
keyboards, netbooks also came with low-resolution screens.
Consumers quickly found that they could perform more tasks with a
smartphone, most of which feature high-resolution displays.
While the netbook concept may have been a failure, its spirit
will live on in future MacBook Airs, Ultrabooks and tablet/laptop
hybrids that attempt to cram a powerful PC into one tiny
(c) 2012 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice.
All rights reserved.
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