The netbook is dead. Long live the netbook.

When the netbook was launched in 2007 it was heralded by some quarters as the future of mobile computing, but it seems that, after only a few years, its rise to popularity has been brief.

January 9, 2013

When the netbook was launched in 2007 it was heralded by some quarters as the future of mobile computing, but it seems that, after only a few years, its rise to popularity has been brief – with manufacturers finally deciding to call the it quits.

But some users are still likely to enter 2013 hankering after some of the netbook’s more alluring features, said Christopher Riley, managing director of laptop and accessories retailer, The Notebook Company.

“The immense popularity of tablets have all but wiped out the netbook. In fact, tablets like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy are playing havoc with laptop sales as well,” said Riley. “We are selling far more iPads then we are laptops – and we don’t see this trend abating any time soon.”

But Riley believes there will still be “more than a few” users who might just hanker for “parts of” the once-popular netbook.

“Tablets and ultrabooks have taken a huge bite out of netbook sales, sending them into a freefall, with manufacturers deciding to pull the plug. But I don’t believe that users have completely forgotten their usefulness and there are certain elements of the netbook that users still like.”

Riley said for those users hankering after the netbook there are some cost-effective alternatives still available.

“While tablets are thinner, lighter and easier to use on the move, tablets struggle when it comes to productivity. Using a keyboard is still the easiest and quickest way to complete Word documents and spreadsheets. But there are still some products out there that offer the best of both worlds,” said Riley.

Riley cited products such as the Asus Transformer Pad. He said the 10.1 inch screen on this unit is the same size as most netbooks and, once the attachable keyboard is clipped on, it even looks like one.

Riley also highlighted the Apple iPad 2 as a nice alternative to a netbook. “It might not be the newest of the iPads, but it is a good alternative to those users who liked their netbooks. Wi-Fi only units are available from around R3 300, excluding import costs, leaving the user with some money to put towards a keyboard.

Then there is the Microsoft Surface RT, which, at around R3 500 (excluding import costs) might be a tad on the high side for old netbook users – but it does offer the necessary features and functionality for play and work.

Another alternative is the Google Chromebooks – which Riley suggests might be the “alternative netbooks for 2013”. There are only two choices here – one from Samsung and one from Acer. But, according to Riley, “these are lightweight laptops at a more affordable price” (around $200).

“They look and feel similar to a netbook, although they run on the Google Chrome operating system, which is not at all bad.”

So while the netbook might have gone to that computer cloud in the sky, their legacy, it seems, still lingers on. If only in alternative units.