Acer: tablets will replace netbooks
Mini laptops to be phased out
So farewell then, netbooks, at from Acer. The PC giant is to phase them out as it transitions to tablets.
So said Taiwan-based sales manager Lu Bing-Hsian yesterday. He was quoted by IDG.
It's not clear when Acer will stop selling netbooks - it launched its latest one just two weeks ago at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) - but its representative revealed that a stack of tablets due to debut during the first six months of 2011 will be 'netbook killers'.
"They are aimed at phasing out netbooks," he said. "That’s the direction of the market."
Acer will continue to make and sell netbooks, he added, but fewer and fewer of them over time as punters shift to tablets.
Expect 7in and 10in models, some running Android, others running Windows. Some will contain ARM-designed processors, others will run on Intel's second-generation Core i chips, codenamed 'Sandy Bridge'.
Lu didn't say so, but we suspect there may be some Atom-based offerings too.
The move essentially sounds the death knell for the netbook, at least as anything other than a niche product for developing countries and the education market.
Of course, the irony is that netbooks were only promoted because their predecessors, the tablet-like UMPCs, weren't much cop: poor battery life, bulky designs, woeful touchscreens and weak touchscreen support in Windows.
Now that Apple and, more recently, Samsung have shown that tablets can be done properly these days, the industry seems keen to return to the UMPC concept. ®
They're missing the point...
We're not all Facebook freaks. We're not all addicted to twitter. We're not all endlessly watching Eastenders on iPlayer.
Some of us, you know, work... Some of us run, oooh, I don't know, email clients like Outlook, for communicating with, and receiving attachments from that place called the *office*, where we *work*.
Some of us have office installed on our netbooks, where it runs quite nicely thank you very much. You wouldn't want to work all day on a netbook, but when that spreadsheet arrives from the Malaysian office at god-knows-what-hour it nice to just have a quick look. Perhaps the Australian will send you a document for quick review: "Can you just have a quick look and make any edits you think need to me made, I've enabled track changes. Thanks".
Netbooks are great for this.
Service engineers are going to be pissed off...
As part of my work as an R&D design engineer I get to spend some time out on site helping to install/upgrade bits of kit I've had a hand in designing. One of the recent visits was to a building where our kit had been installed early in the construction of the building, and with further building work still ongoing - in other words, pretty much every surface in the entire building was coated in cement/brick dust. Now, whilst I was careful to minimise the amount of crud that got on my hands throughout the day, the keyboard on my Aspire One still ended up with a noticeable coating of dust on all the keys I'd used, and the outer shell of the netbook was well and truly covered from all the times I had it resting on the floor, equipment cabinet, cable reel or other handy flat surface.
So you can imagine that, had I instead been using a touchscreen device, I'd have been utterly paranoid about the amount of dirt getting on the screen and the risk of scratches. Which means that to replace the netbook with a tablet I'd need to also lug around a keyboard and mouse, and forget all about the touchscreen aspect of the tablet.
Next, there were instances where there wasn't a handy flat surface to sit the netbook on, and so I just plonked it down wherever it would stay put. With the extended capacity battery providing extra stability to the base, I was then able to tilt the screen to any angle within the limits of the hinge mechanism, allowing me to be able to read it without having to crane my neck. I don't see how a tablet, designed for holding in the hand or resting on the lap, would fare terribly well in an environment where there isn't always a handy vertical surface to prop it up against, and where any sort of stand is just going to be a complete annoyance to use every time you move from one work area to the next.
Finally, all through the day I was carrying the netbook around in my toolbag along with other test gear, hand tools, spare cables etc. Thanks to the clamshell nature of the netbook design, the risk of damaging the screen was minimised without the need to invest in any additional carry case. Using a tablet in the same conditions would absolutely require a rigid casing to protect the expanse of otherwise completely unprotected screen, and ideally this casing would then need to be designed such that the tablet could be used without having to completely remove the casing each time - the time penalty involved in flipping a netbook screen open and closed is so minimal it's a no-brainer to close it each time you move from A to B, whereas if it took even just a few seconds to get the tablet in or out of its protective casing then chances are you'd be less likely to do it every time.
Then just yesterday I had to call out a mobile mechanic to look at my car. Did he come armed with a well-thumbed selection of workshop manuals? Nope. One netbook loaded up with a variety of electronic manuals - big enough so the information could be easily read off the screen, small enough so it could be balanced on the edge of the engine bay, centre console or wherever he was looking. Think he'd want to switch to using a tablet? No, me neither. Think he'd be happy switching back to a full-size laptop? Perhaps, but given how many different laptops are available these days, there has to be a reason why so many of us are still opting to buy netbooks instead - price isn't an issue considering how cheap some laptops are these days, and even the most lowly of laptop is going to offer better hardware specs than the typical netbook. So maybe, just maybe, the diminutive size of the netbook is what sells it to us. As someone who already had two laptops at home at the time I bought the Aspire, that's certainly what sold it to me.
I'm not a rabid tablet-hater, far from it. I just wish that, in the rush to embrace the next big thing in consumer electronics, the manufacturers took the time to consider all the implications of dumping the old in favour of the new, rather than assuming the new will be a suitable replacement for the old in every case.
I guess in short what I'm trying to say is that everything has its place - netbooks, laptops and tablets - and attempting to persuade every user of one that they can simply switch to using one of the others is never going to work. And as someone who's got so much use out of a netbook wearing an Acer badge, it's particularly disheartening to see them turning their back on this part of the market.
They want us to spend more money then.
I suppose we should have seen this coming -- rather than spending <£250 on a netbook (some would argue <£200, I'm sure) they want us all to spend £500 on a tablet and make do without a keyboard.
I can't be the only one who doesn't want to spend twice as much (meaning twice the worry of damage or loss/theft) to get the keyboard taken away (meaning harder to prop up on a desk and type)?
I blame Microsoft and Intel for this -- the netbook concept of Linux+SSD+ARM could have been a killer had Intel and MS not threatened everyone with loss of subsidies.