It seems like every other day we see a report suggesting that tablets are killing off consumer demand for netbooks, but last week ABI Research released results of survey suggesting that both product categories remain pretty popular. About 27 percent of those questioned said they were “very” or “extremely” interested in acquiring tablets, while the figure for netbooks was about 25 percent.
Almost half of those surveyed said they didn’t really want a tablet or a netbook though — with most of those answers coming from people who just didn’t see any need for either type of device.
The survey was conducted in March, which may have affected results a bit. At the time there weren’t nearly as many tablets on the market as there are just a few short months later — and that means there were fewer companies throwing their advertising dollars at consumers trying to interest them in Android or webOS tablets.
There have been some high profile reports recently suggesting that prominent netbook makers including Asus are scaling back their plans for mini-laptops and instead focusing on tablets. But there are still an awful lot of low cost 10 inch netbooks on the market. It’s not surprising that a few years after launch the little guys aren’t seeing the extraordinary year-after-year growth that you saw in 2008 and 2009. But tablets don’t have to kill netbooks in order to survive.
More importantly, even if netbooks were to disappear off store shelves tomorrow, they’ve already managed to accomplish something spectacular. They brought down the overall price of notebooks, particularly portable notebooks. A few years ago you simply couldn’t find a 2-3 pound laptop for under $1000. Now they’re everywhere you look.
Perhaps we’ll start to see a similar race-to-the-bottom in the tablet space soon. The difference is that while netbooks introduced the concept of “good enough” computing to the notebook space, many of the cheapest tablets available today are really barely good enough due to cheap components, sluggish processors, outdated operating systems, and unresponsive displays. That may be starting to change though.