Farwell then, netbooks: it was nice knowing you

Nice piece by Charles Arthur in the Guardian on the rise and fall of something that was once the New New Thing. Conclusion:

Netbooks had a short but interesting life – going from the one-time saviour of the PC industry, to just another mispriced attempt to push some low-powered Intel chips and garner more money for Microsoft.

But the squeeze on pricing, plus the fact that Windows licences aren’t free, meant that they got pushed into a tiny niche: worse specifications than slightly pricier laptops, no margin for the manufacturers, and worse battery life and portability than the burgeoning number of tablets with custom apps.

The questions that do remain is what’s going to happen to the various government contracts in countries such as Greece and Malaysia to equip schools with netbooks – or whether those contracts have finished, or been discontinued.

What, too, about the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project? Essentially, it’s trying to get netbook-like devices to classrooms in developing countries. There hasn’t been much news of huge wins this year, though, going by its end-of-year blogpost. Perhaps it will function independently of the death of consumer netbooks.

So farewell, netbooks. It was nice knowing you, but ultimately, you were just another PC.

One of the most marked differences between the technology and old-media industries is the speed with which product categories come and go. The Netbook is a classic case-study of this.

One big question: Google still seems to be pushing its Chromebook.

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