The Netbook is Dead—Apparently

I was just reading at Gizmodo how the netbook is dead. The theory is that there is no real gap to fill now between the iPad style tablets about to flood the market in 2011 and a full-function notebook.

Just to refresh you memory—in case you are one of those that struggle to understand the difference between netbooks and notebooks (which used to be called laptops)—following are the four main differences between a netbook and a notebook.

  1. Netbooks don’t have an optical media drive (i.e., a CD/DVD drive), whereas notebooks do.

    Initially this sounds like a huge issue. It means you can’t watch movies on a netbook. But that is simply not true. It just means you can’t watch DVDs on a netbook.

    In a recent article on Engadget based on research done by Sony less than 10 percent of movies and TV series watched on netbooks or notebooks were played back from DVD or Blu-ray. The primary media source for media playback on netbooks and notebooks is via streaming video from the Internet or via compressed media files (such as AVI and MKV); and these are sourced by network connection, portable USB hard disk, or by USB “Thumb drives” and memory sticks. No DVD is required.

  2. Netbooks have smaller screens. The highest netbook screen resolution is 1366x768 with 90 percent of netbooks being sold having a screen resolution of 1024x600 (which is lower than the old 14” CRT screen resolution of 1024x768).

    While 1024x600 is a small-ish screen, and I would find such a screen very hard to live with, 1366x768 (768y) is probably the most common screen size used for standard notebooks. So as long as you shop around and pick up a netbook with the 1366x768 screen then you are not going to be missing out on much in the way of screen real estate compared to most full-sized notebooks.

    But even so, if all you are going to do is a small amount of word processing and surf the Web then the relatively small 1024x600 screen might just be good enough for most people. You will have to scroll more when browsing and when using Word you will get much less of your document on-screen, but then there has to be some reason netbooks are only about 50 – 60 percent of the cost of a full-function notebook.

  3. The most memory a netbook has is 2TB and it cannot be expanded; and the vast bulk of netbooks only have 1TB of memory.

    But seriously, if all you are going to do is surf the Web and do some word processing now and then all you will need is 1TB—and 2TB is just overkill. Just don’t start doing any serious photo editing with PhotoShop, or load up three or four large spreadsheets at the same time. If you do then things are going to start to get a little sluggish.

  4. Netbooks are slower. This is true. Because of the slower cheaper central processor, slower memory, and slower video, netbooks benchmark much slower if you run a performance test utility on them. However they are generally ample ‘fast’ enough for ‘real world’ Web browsing, a little spreadsheet work, some minor photo editing, and a bit of casual word processing.

So, back to where I started. I seems the netbook is dead because now in 2011 anyone just wanting to surf the Web and do some moderate word processing and photo editing from time to time is more likely to pick up one of the new super-portable tablet computers about to hit the market.

It will be interesting to see. Netbooks were a huge sales success over the last three years. I recall seeing numbers indicating that one of every 9 computes sold in 2009 was a netbook. I tried to find some numbers from 2010 so I could include them in this posting but I could not find anything with a quick search.

Is 2011 really the end of the netbook?