John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

The Netbook Is on Its Last Legs

in_loving_memoryIf the netbook wasn’t dead already, it soon will be — give it another year or so.

That’s the word from research house IHS iSuppli, which has slapped an expiration date on the netbook, following the device’s continued decline into irrelevance. That date? The year 2015.

IHS figures that netbook shipments, which topped 32 million at their height in 2010, will be a mere 3.97 million in 2013. That’s a precipitous 72 percent fall from the 14.13 million shipped last year. Next year will see an equally gruesome drop, with shipments hitting a little more than a quarter of a million.

And in 2015: Zero.

Netbook_forcast_IHS

Hardly a surprise. If anything, it’s a shock that netbooks are still around today. With tablets becoming increasingly ubiquitous, there’s little room left for the netbook in the market for which it was intended — that middle ground between laptop and smartphone. That niche has been fully occupied and expanded by the iPad and devices like it. One could make the argument that the lowly netbook’s decline began with the debut of the iPad, a device that offered a better set of answers to the questions posed by that nascent category.

“All of us use laptops and smartphones now,” Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said during the 2010 launch of the iPad. “And the question has arisen lately: Is there room for a device in the middle? … Some folks say this device is a netbook. … The problem is, netbooks aren’t better at anything.”

Harsh words, but largely accurate. Certainly, they were borne out in the ensuing years. The massive surge of interest in tablets heralded by the iPad led to an equally massive loss of interest in netbooks. The PC industry shipped 32 million netbooks the year the iPad launched. Five years later — if IHS is correct — it won’t ship any. And the netbook will be little more than the wrong answer to that question Jobs posed back in 2010.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik