The Death of the Netbook

Netbook death watchI’ve never really understood the netbook craze. I can see the benefits of having a lightweight, low-power computer that performs 90% of the tasks you use a personal computer for; it just hasn’t appealed to me, or my wallet.

I can understand that it’s a very cheap way to get online (even though they are double US$ the price in the UK), but I’ve been perfectly happy with a 13″ Macbook I bought 4 years ago. I haven’t seen a purpose to re-spend the money that I invested all those years ago on a laptop that can do half as much.

Other things worry me about netbooks though, they’re a stop-gap. Since the iPhone, the dream has been to have a fully-fledged PC available in your hand, that works quickly and has a long battery life. Netbooks bridged a gap by providing a long(er) battery life and smaller screen, but have left it to the big boys to sort out the proper way of interacting with these smaller devices. See my post on netbook touch screen usability for more on how infuriating it gets.

So, in the next two years, netbooks will die completely. They will be replaced by what these users have wanted all along: a tablet PC with a good touch screen interface. For the first year, pretenders to the throne may have to carry a small bluetooth keyboard whilst the niggles are worked out, then the revolution will come, prices will drop and all those people who shelled out their hard-earned money will happily spend again to get a tablet.

If it is not beyond my power, I’d put the whole netbook format on deathwatch. Its death will be prolonged by price, but it will soon fall. The netbook’s time will come, and we’ll be a whole lot better off with its sucessor.

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Steve Workman

Steve Workman is the Head of Web Engineering at Yell. He is also an organiser for London Web Standards is an occasional public speaker, talking about web performance and web standards

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