Acer is to cease production of its netbooks. ©Acer
Netbooks, the small, low-cost mobile PCs that Steve Jobs famously ridiculed as he unveiled the first iPad back in 2010, are officially no more. The two remaining manufacturers, Asus and Acer have both issued statements claiming that the end of 2012 also marks the end of production for the once much-hyped mini-laptops.
Portability + productivity
Launched to great fanfare in 2007, netbooks were seen by many in the industry as the missing link between the smartphone and the traditional computer -- something that had the true portability of a phone but that packed a productivity punch more in tune with a laptop. They boasted a low-power Intel Atom processor, a 10-inch low-resolution screen and a stripped-down version of Windows as an operating system and as a result, as well as being smaller, they were much cheaper than a full-size laptop computer.
By 2009 the devices had become so popular that every one of the world's leading PC manufacturers, from HP to Sony and Toshiba, had their own range. Many experts and tech journalists were claiming it was only a matter of time before Apple was forced to launch its own netbook if it wanted to survive. Analysts were predicting that by the end of the year 45 million devices would be sold. ABI Research went as far as to suggest that by 2013 netbooks would sell in quantities of 139 million a year.
Tablet as 'third device'
But what actually happened is that full-sized laptops became more powerful, lighter and cheaper, and in 2010 Apple released the iPad.
During the launch presentation, Steve Jobs explained that there is room for a third device in people's lives -- one that occupies the space between a smartphone and a laptop computer -- but to be able to occupy that space, it has to be better than both devices at browsing the web, sharing photos, watching videos, reading e-books and gaming.
"If there's going to be a third category of device it is going to have to be better at doing these types of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone; otherwise it has no reason for being. Now, some people have thought 'that's a netbook!' The problem is that netbooks aren't better at anything. They're slow, they have low-quality displays, and they run clunky old PC software. So they're not better than a laptop at anything, they're just cheaper. They are just cheap laptops. And we don't think that they're a third category of device," he said.
A little over two years later, Apple has sold over 100 million iPads, and all of the world's leading computer makers are now selling their own tablets and convertible PC devices.