Some industry experts are ready to sign a “do not resuscitate” order for the netbook market, sending them to the morgue for placement in their small (yet cheap, and plastic) caskets. But those netbooks hearts are still beating steadily, and are far from heading toward the light. “With most consumers willing to carry two devices total, there’s not a lot of room for ‘tweener devices,’” analyst Michael Gartenberg wrote in a recent column for Engadget, woefully entitled, Netbooks, R.I.P. A few weeks later notebook analyst Rob Enderle declared, “anything you want to do on a notebook, you will be able to do on a netbook,” in his The Death of the Netbook column for Inquiry Analysts. And then there was Wired’s Brian X. Chen, who said his iPhone 3GS was better than his “hackintoshed” MSI Wind. Am I missing something? Netbooks are selling by the millions. In the first quarter of 2009 alone, about 6 million were sold. According to DisplaySearch, 33 million netbooks will ship by the end of this year, meaning sales growth of 136 percent in the U.S., while traditional notebook sales are predicted to remain flat; proving there is still high demand for netbook-specific traits. So how the heck could netbooks be dying? One argument is that netbooks, as they were originally conceived, aren’t really netbooks anymore; they’re regular laptops. With many netbooks growing to include 12-inch screens and packing processors capable of basic computing (HD video, multitasking, etc.), Moore’s Law is certainly at work. There’s no doubt some netbooks have become more powerful, and have started to resemble low-priced ultraportables. But I contend that smaller netbooks aren’t dead, or even on life support. Here’s why. ..
Perhaps customers who once would have bought a netbook, because of its low price, will soon opt to by a larger 12-inch system equipped with Nvidia’s Ion graphics or Intel’s CULV processor for a premium. But many will continue to see the need for a netbook as a secondary PC, whether it’s for traveling or just getting online in a pinch at home or at the local coffee shop. Those are the people who will continue to pump blood through the veins of the netbook industry.