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Are Netbooks Headed for Extinction?

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With the advent of the iPad, iPad2, the subsequent release of numerous Android based competitors, in conjunction with the promise of several Windows 7 based tablet PCs before the end of the year, there has been some speculation as to whether netbooks will survive. I believe netbooks will survive, but perhaps in a slightly different form factor than they do at present.

Netbooks have filled a need for small, lightweight portable computers for those who travel a great deal, or who must lug a laptop around most of the day. While netbook keyboards have usually been smaller than those of its bigger brothers, they have been sufficient for typing documents, emails, and other tasks.

In fact, typical netbook keyboards have become more comfortable to work with, as most now place all the keys in the expected position, unlike some of the earlier iterations that placed one or both 'shift' keys in awkward places.

In contrast to netbook keyboards, I find the onscreen iPad keyboard to be unsatisfactory for fast typing. I like to feel the keys when I type, and the onscreen variety offers a very different touch experience. Additionally, the very small keyboards on some of the 7 inch screen Android tablets seem little better than the ultra small keys on smartphones. I do have a Bluetooth Apple keyboard that came with my iMac, and sometimes I use it with my iPad.

I find it to be the most comfortable option when typing on the iPad, but then it is not very practical to lug it around with the iPad all day. Therefore, a netbook fills my need more effectively than does the iPad. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy my iPad, but mostly as a consumption device rather than a creative one.

Netbooks also usually have screens that are no larger than 10.1 inches in size, which is consistent with the mission and functionality of a netbook. A netbook released with an 11 inch screen would begin to encroach on the domain of what are termed ultraportable laptops. Also the average price of traditional 10.1 inch netbooks run between $299 to $379 USD depending on the configuration, while lower end ultraportables can be found for $500 to $700 USD.

Ultraportables use to be priced higher than their larger laptop brothers, while offering similar performance, and still are if you buy a high end model. I can foresee lower end ultraportable pricing possibly coming down another $100 USD, placing it in the netbook price range in the not too distant future. As light and efficient as these slightly larger units can be manufactured, they could be the new form factor for what is considered a netbook.

Another defining factor in what makes a netbook a netbook is the lower powered processor. The current crop of Atom processors are more efficient, generally using less battery power and generate less heat than did earlier Atom processors. They are also available in dual core configurations. A slightly more powerful netbook configured with these processors could become, along with the 11 inch screen, the new netbook standard in the near future.

Whether or not netbooks evolve into a portable with a slightly larger screen and/or a more powerful processor than is currently offered, I cannot believe the netbook is finished as a viable mobile computing option. I can't imagine there not being a continued market for a smaller, lighter, less powerful, less expensive portable that fulfills very basic laptop needs. Sure, some basic needs can be fulfilled by tablets, but by the time you buy a physical keyboard to use with the tablet, your total investment could easily afford you two netbooks.

What are your opinions and thoughts?

Do you think the netbook is finished, or does it still have a role to play?

Your comments are most welcome.

Edited by Joe V

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Oh, good heavens, I hope not.

IMO? They will be around, but evolve. Hope not too many changes. I love my iPad, but agree about the keyboard. I use external keying if I have to.

Otherwise, I'd be forever lost w/o my lappy. :)

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Yes, netbooks are headed for extinction.

More and more people are using their tablets for everyday tasks - email, messaging, events, even document creation.

Soon we will have a keyboard for tablets - via bluetooth connection or something like that.

Android/Honeycomb is all Google. Google is about connecting everyone to the cloud; So, it makes sense to build their mobile OS with capabilities to add accessories.

give it 2 years and say bye-bye ;)

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There is no way netbooks will go away. The computing power is huge for a small price. Tablets are sooo expensive. I bought a netbook at the start of nursing school and use it for everything. I will never buy an iPad because the cost is crazy. Netbooks are perfect entry level computers that can go the distance in school from K-12 and onto college.

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I sure hope not. I like my netbook and while I can see the draw of the iPad for others, I'm not sold on it yet myself.

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