Apple Shot the Netbook Market


Apple, through the combined might of both the iPad and the MacBook Air, and various other tablet/ultra-portable manufacturers have effectively taken out the market for netbooks. Netbooks, a term coined in the mid 2000s, were smaller computers (usually around 10″ screens, though originally smaller) with cheap parts and often a lighter OS. These cheap components combined to make the netbook a very affordable computer, with most retailing under the $450 price tag in one configuration or another.

Apple was one of the few computer manufacturers that neglected to create a netbook, with executives like Tim Cook and the late Steve Jobs saying that Apple simply couldn’t deliver a quality computer at such a low price. They both stated that they believed netbooks to be a passing trend, and that they weren’t fit for most users because of how underpowered they were.

iPad Mini Front

Eventually, the iPad would launch and take on the netbook market with its $499 price tag. Netbooks were already on the decline, as consumers began demanding more powerful CPUs and other chips began to be viable in smaller devices. Apple’s MacBook Air spurred other computer manufacturers to begin creating ultra-portable laptops, and Intel even began an “Ultrabook” initiative, which was based around more power-efficient parts.

The Guardian reports on the fact that, after 2013, netbooks will no longer be available. Previous pioneers in the market like Asus and Acer are ceasing production of their netbook models, while other companies like HP ceased widespread production in mid 2012.

Actually, the number sold in 2013 will be very much closer to zero than to 139m. The Taiwanese tech site Digitimes points out that Asus, which kicked off the modern netbook category with its Eee PC in 2007, has announced that it won’t make its Eee PC product after today, and that Acer doesn’t plan to make any more; which means that “the netbook market will officially end after the two vendors finish digesting their remaining inventories.”

Asustek and Acer were the only two companies still making netbooks, with everyone else who had made them (including Samsung, HP and Dell) having shifted to tablets.

In an article on Slate, Farhad Manjoo argues the following:

Apple alone stood against the tide of netbooks. Apple’s brilliant insight was that despite netbooks’ popularity, nobody really wanted a netbook per se. Instead, Apple realized that people who were buying netbooks were looking for one of two things—they wanted full-fledged laptops that were very portable, or they wanted cheap machines that allowed them to easily surf the Web, use email and do other light computing tasks.

He concludes by saying that Apple then built the iPad on the low-end, and the MacBook Air to meet the sub-$1000 price. Both, he argues, represent giant leaps in both functionality and performance over the netbook category.

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