Who killed the netbook?

The netbook’s brief success was also its swan song

By , ITworld |  Hardware, Netbooks

Asus delivered its first netbook, the Eee 700, to an early success. Cults started to emerge of Eee owners, and the OLPC had their first 'consumer'-spawned release as the OLPC was only sold to governments. With just 2GB of SSD storage, the Eee contained an Intel Celeron M processor and later editions have used Intel's Atom. However, the price was stunning at just $299—very inexpensive for the time. Although it was initially released with Linux, Windows XP and other operating systems versions became available.

In a way, some of the early hardware industry executive critics were right. Profit margins on netbooks were slim. Netbooks were originally designed for third world consumption, where a fatuous notebook might be as much as six months of an average person's annual wages. No money there in expensive notebooks, right? Yet netbooks were cute, light, portable, and importantly: inexpensive. Netbooks seemed to violate all of the rules of the laptop/notebook computer class, often having no internal CD/DVD drive, and usually no "hard" drive at all—using solid state disks/SSDs, instead. The Linux operating system was used to keep the price low—as well as the netbook hardware needed to run it.

Still, just two and a half years ago, organizations were praising netbooks. ABI Research claimed huge numbers of netbooks would be sold -- 35 million is their prediction.

Big hardware vendors were seemingly caught unaware of the netbook trend, while the manufacturing titans of Taiwan and China were rapidly embracing it. The netbook looked rosy, inexpensive, and with apparent high consumer demand.

But netbooks were murdered, and this is the story of how. Those found guilty have to pass three tests: motive, opportunity, and a weapon. There were lots of conspirators, each with a motive. The weapons were surprisingly numerous, too. Each one has a different opportunity. No single one of them murdered them, and while there was conspiracy, there was also the accident of bad timing: the right formula at the wrong time.

The big squeeze

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