Do you remember the buzz in 2008 for low-cost laptops? Can you recall when Asus announced the EeePC, a sub-$400 laptop computer that had all the techies excited? Or when OLPC proclaimed they would be shipping 10 million XO laptops to needy school children around the world? Fast forward just four short years, and major PC makers have stopped selling inexpensive mini-laptops with 10 inch screens, Intel Atom processors, and Windows 7 software – the basic netbook configuration.
Now you can still find netbooks for sale, but options are starting to dwindle. Laptop manufactures have reverted back to chasing Apple back upmarket towards $1,000+ laptops that feature high style over low price. About the only “dirt cheap” computers for sale now are bare CPUs like Raspberry Pi.
Everyone else has caught tablet fever with iPads and Androids emerging in all sorts of shapes and sizes. To an extend, this is a good thing. Yes, prices of tablets are often more than netbooks, yet at the same time, tablets are arguably more robust in rural settings. Tablets have less openings for dust, their screens are more durable, and with solid state memory and no need for mechanical keyboards or mice, they can withstand much more abuse than often fragile netbooks.
And then there is the user experience. As even Nicholas Negroponte has proven, kids love tablets and learn how to use them with speed and agility that can amaze.
So while we may be nearing the time when netbooks are killed off by tablets, we should not shed a tear. Innovation is good for us all, and soon, even the mighty tablet will fall to the next innovation in human/computer interactions.
This post was inspired by Brad Linder’s Twilight of the 10=inch Netbooks and the comments on that article are well worth the read