Netbooks now make up about 5 percent of global PC shipments, down from 13 percent two years ago. That’s according to new figures from research firm Canalys. The firm also reports that netbook shipments were about 34 percent lower during the first quarter of 2012 than the same period in 2011.
I think it’s too early to proclaim the death of the netbook, as some people always want to do for some reason. But clearly some of the predictions made a few years ago have turned out to be a little less than true.
Netbooks are small, cheap laptop computers. Most of the netbooks on the market today are powered by Intel Atom processors which don’t use a lot of energy, offer a lot of performance, or cost very much.
A few years ago a typical netbook sold for around $400 or more, but prices have fallen to less than $300 for many models today. That makes them reasonably attractive for shoppers who value low price and high portability over performance — but they’re not particularly attractive for PC manufacturers that would rather sell pricier computers with higher profit margins.
Dell has stopped selling netbooks altogether, and while HP, Acer, and Asus have all released new models in 2012 other companies including Toshiba and Lenovo introduced new models at CES… but haven’t actually brought them to market in the US yet.
Even Linux PC builders System76 and ZaReason recently stopped selling netbooks.
As long as there are some people who would prefer a low power laptop with an x86 processor to an Android or iOS-powered tablet, I suspect at least a few PC vendors will continue to offer them.
But the most important legacy of netbooks may be that they showed there was demand for low cost ultraportable laptops with long battery life. Up until the introduction of the netbook, a 3 pound laptop would run you $1500 or more.
Now the average price of all laptop computers is just over $500, and PC makers are rallying around Intel’s ultrabook platform, offering thin and light notebooks that are far more capable all-around computers than netbooks — even if they cost two or three times as much.
Like netbooks, ultrabooks, tablets, and other items that are hot today could be passé in a few years when something else new and trendy comes along.