2012, the Year the Netbook Died, a Eulogy


It’s been widely reported over the web that Acer and Asus are pulling out of the netbook market as of today effectively ending the netbook as a viable platform.  It says a great deal when Asus, who practically invented the netbook, has said they are done.  I write not to bury the netbook but to praise it for what it was: a great and cheap way to get things done on the web.

I remember the very first netbook, the Asus EeePC 701.  It wasn’t the most powerful thing out there.  It had a 900 MHz Celeron, 7 inch screen and the very first netbook ran not Windows, but Linux.  It wasn’t long after it came out that I had one and even with it’s minimal specs I loved it and carried it everywhere.  I quickly learned how to get rid of the default Linux install and put on Ubuntu and I was loving it.  Sure, the trackpad sucked mostly because it was just way too small, but I still trekked that thing everywhere.  I used to edit podcasts using the 701 and while it wasn’t the greatest at this task, it did get things done.

Not long after that, I received as a gift from Judie, the Asus EeePC 1000HE.  For a LONG time I used ONLY this machine to write for Gear Diary.  It came with Windows XP on it, but I never fully booted it favoring Ubuntu and Linux Mint on this machine.  This netbook got the most use of all of the netbooks I ever owned.  By far this 10 inch lovely was the best netbook I ever had.  It was still a single core Atom, but it still got things done.

My last, and current netbook is the Lenovo S10-3t.  I originally ran MeeGo on this until not long after I got it, MeeGo became history getting renamed several times.  After that I ran almost every major Linux distro on this thing.  The 3T was unique in that it has a capacitive touchscreen like the very devices that killed the netbook market in a few short years: the iPad and Android Tablets.  I still use it, but I almost never carry it preferring to take my EeePad Transformer with me instead.  However, it sits in my home office getting almost daily use as a scratchpad of sorts whenever I need to jot down a phone number or a quick note.

As we get ready to ring in the new year, share your story of your beloved netbook if you fell for them as I did.  Even though netbooks as a category are no more, the technology they were based on lives on in other form factors including Google’s Chromebook.  So, in a way, the netbook lives on but not as they once were.  Farewell Netbooks.  Many may not miss you but I sure will.

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6 replies

  1. Good article – you and I both grabbed hold of netbooks hard back when they landed, though I let go much sooner …

    My couple of thoughts:

    – I would mark 2010 as the ‘death of netbooks’ year, as sales absolutely plummeted starting then. The way I see it, similar to how Palm and Windows Mobile offered devices until recently that nobody was buying … I would call 2012 ‘zombie netbook’ year :)

    – But at the same time I agree about 2012 – because Chromebooks have also been largely a non-entity. They aren’t peeling off laptop buyers, nor have they made a dent on tablets … they are just vanity gadgets that augment people who already have both.

    • 2013 could be the year the Chromebook actually does something. The newest ones are much cheaper now than the original ones.

      Intel is seriously fooling themselves if they try to push the Atom into mobile devices. It’s just not there yet.

  2. I have an Acer Aspire A150. That poor little netbook never gets used. It sits neglected on my desk, between my iMac and my Mac Mini computers, wondering why I dont love it.

    Now that I have an iPad and an Ipad Mini, that netbook sits there neglected like the redheaded stepchild. Not even sure I could get more than $50 if I were to sell it now. Everyone wants iPads or other tablets now.

    • Yeah there in lies the problem now. Tablets really DO fill in for the netbook rather nicely. There are still some things that netbooks can do a little better, but when you add a keyboard dock to an iPad or Android tablet that becomes moot….unless you need a specific app that isn’t on iOS or Android yet.

      I still like the concept and I think it will be one that will come back once the price of the ultrabooks come down. However, 7, 9 and 10 inch screens may not be the size they choose favoring to go with an 11-13 inch screen or even a 15. As long as it’s thin, it can have the same portability as a netbook.

  3. I’ve got a soft spot for the highly mobile, so-called low-end of the computing spectrum. I’ve owned 4 netbooks since 2008, all Asus EEE PC variants (900, 901, 1001PX, 1015PX). My experiences have been good, especially recently. Mint versions 12 & 13 run great on the 10xxPX units, and LibreOffice is mature enough to do all but my most complicated spreadsheet work. I switched to SSDs based on my experience with the 901 (which I boosted with a Runcore SSD). Linux, an SSD and max RAM form the key to making a netbook do great things. I wish more folks had gotten this message. They’re great tools. Honest.