When netbooks first appeared in 2007 the iPad was still 3 years away, Android had only just been unveiled, and consumers
were queuing up to check out this new “smartphone” called the iPhone. Netbooks offered a great alternative to laptops at the time. They were significantly cheaper, quite portable, and usable if all you wanted to do was write documents and surf the web while forgiving the tiny, low resolution display.
They proved very popular, accounted for tens of millions of sales every year, and even started taking market share away from the more expensive and feature rich laptops. As a first PC, they were perfect for kids and some manufacturers even targeted the younger generations and schools with rugged models.
The run of the netbook as a form factor is coming to an end, though. Ever since the iPad and Android tablets have been available netbook sales have been falling to the point where we now have a predicted extinction date.
Market research firm iSuppli has compiled the figures and believes that come 2015 the netbook will be extinct as a product. The evidence suggesting that is based on sales, which sat at 32.14 million in 2010, but dropped to 14.13 million for 2012. The prediction for 2013? Just 3.97 million, and there’s no signs that will do anything other than fall sharply again next year.
A 72 percent drop in sales this year certainly doesn’t bode well, but at the same time is a good reflection of how the market has changed. Portable computing is now done on large screen smartphones, tablets, and Ultrabooks, which are much more portable laptops with larger displays and prices that are falling.
The netbook served a purpose as a transition device, and one that will likely be fondly remembered by millions of users, but its time is up and we have all moved on.