The once popular netbook is now on the verge of extinction.
Say goodbye to the netbook as you know it. In a couple of years, netbooks will virtually disappear from the market place, becoming the first true casualty of the tablet era. Even today there really isn't much of a market for netbooks, a category that was at the height of its popularity just three short years ago. In 2010, it seemed like OEMs were lining our inboxes with new netbooks announcements on a daily basis.
That's only a slight exaggeration. According to IHS iSuppli, there were 32.1 million netbook shipments in 2010. Customers were drawn both to the form factor's relative portability and the cost of entry. You had to trade performance and, in some cases, OS functionality to own a netbook, but it still represented the best that was available in terms of cheap, mobile, and somewhat capable.
Then came the iPad, which Apple launched on April 3, 2010. Apple didn't create the tablet category, but it did fine-tune and popularize slates, effectively killing off demand for netbooks in the process. It's no coincidence that the netbook market has been shrinking ever since.
Now three years later, IHS iSuppli forecasts netbook shipments will only reach 3.9 million units by the end of the year, down from 14.1 million in 2012. Next year will only see 264,000 netbook shipments, and by 2015, the category will go the way of the Dodo bird, IHS iSuppli says.
Don't shed too many tears for the netbooks, they were largely underpowered to begin with. Going forward, we're starting to see lower price Ultrabooks, ultra-thins, and traditional notebook PCs take their place. A quick glance on Best Buy's website, for example, reveals a Gateway 15.6-inch laptop with a Pentium B960 processor, 4GB of RAM, 320GB HDD, and even an optical drive for $300. There's also a listing for a 13.3-inch Dell Inspiron Ultrabook with a Core i3 3227U processor, 4GB of RAM, and 500GB HDD for $370.
For anyone looking for just a basic machine for web surfing and productivity chores, Google's Chromebook is another viable option. I've pointed out before that Google's Chromebook platform is basically the netbook evolved, and that's especially true with the cost of entry as low as $199 .