Acer and Asus will cease production of netbooks soon, according to a report by Taiwanese industry tracker DigiTimes. Both of the remaining major netbook manufacturers will exit the category they helped create nearly five years ago, thus effectively killing off the entire device category. While Asus had already dropped its EeePC brand in the middle of 2012 in order to focus on its Transformer series of tablets and hybrid devices, Acer has not announced any new models for quite some time. Both companies are expected to cease production, although existing inventory will continue to be sold as long as it lasts.
Other major OEMs have also stopped manufacturing netbooks. Dell was one of the first players in the netbook market to withdraw, when it stopped sales of its Inspiron mini line of netbooks late last year. Samsung had also hinted at ceasing netbook production in November 2011.
The end of the netbook era.
Acer netbook sales
Netbooks emerged in early 2008, with Asus taking the lead with a small Celeron-powered device with a 7-inch screen and only 2 or 4GB of built-in storage. Later models used 9- and 10-inch screens, with built-in hard drives and much more comfortable keyboards. Netbooks took off in a big way when Intel launched its low-cost, low-power Atom line of CPUs. The original Asus Eee PC models and similar devices from most manufacturers came with Linux-based OSes, but Windows XP and later Windows 7 Starter became the standard.
The cheap, low-powered mini laptops were initially designed for emerging markets but were most successful in Europe and other developed markets. Users flocked to them because of their portability and flexibility, often using them as secondary devices. By 2010, every major manufacturer except Apple had jumped onto the bandwagon; some after resisting and experimenting with alternative form factors. Apple famously derided the entire category, saying users were willing to pay more money for better devices. When pressed to answer why he wasn’t entering the then-booming category, Steve Jobs simply said “We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.”
Apple then went on to unveil the iPad, which turned out to be one of the fastest selling gadgets of all time, spawned its own set of copies, and fulfilled many of the purposes that netbooks served in developed markets. Meanwhile, netbook innovation stagnated with most models from different manufacturers looking and performing much like each other. Manufacturers’ attentions shifted to tablets, and one by one they began withdrawing from the netbook market.
Netbooks still represent the lowest price point for PCs running Windows and its vast libray of software on commodity hardware, which means the death of these products leaves a hole in the market that neither tablets nor laptops can fill.