IHS iSuppli: Netbook Era May Be Reaching End

By Steve Anderson April 15, 2013

The idea of the netbook has always been somewhat limited in scope – not as powerful as a real laptop, not quite as portable as a tablet – but it's had something of a following over the years. However, IHS iSuppli's new report, only recently released, suggests the netbook's time in the sun may be coming to an end.

And on the headstone of the dead medium will likely be carved: "Twas iPad That Slew Me."

Essentially, the IHS iSuppli report starts charting the progress of netbook sales over the course of the last three years and projects outward to a date, in which, at the present rate of decline, there are no more netbook units shipped. It starts with 2010, the heyday for netbooks, in which 32.14 million units were shipped.

This was the same year that the iPad hit the market, and a clear downward progression begins.

The report goes on to project that, for 2013, only 3.97 million netbooks will be shipped. That's not only just a bit over 10 percent of the totals for 2010, but it's also a 72-percent drop from just 2012. Things only get worse for the netbook from there, as 2014's forecast is merely 264,000 units, another drop of greater than 90 percent.

Finally the magic year arrives, and 2015 is expected to ship not one netbook.

So what's driving those numbers down to such a catastrophic degree? It's all about the iPad, says Craig Stice of IHS iSuppli. “Netbooks shot to popularity immediately after launch because they were optimized for low cost, delivering what many consumers believed as acceptable computer performance,” he said. “However, netbooks began their descent into oblivion with the introduction in 2010 of Apple's iPad.”

Many figured it was inevitable that Apple would get into the netbook race itself, but instead, it stuck with the tablet design – then-CEO Steve Jobs pretty much killed all hope of an Apple netbook when he said, "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk, and our DNA won't let us ship that." – and the rest was history.

Indeed, the market seems to be going increasingly toward tablets for most of its computing needs. Given that, according to reports, the iPad accounts for one out of every six computers shipped, the market is voting with its wallet and is voting tablet. Sure, there will always be a place for desktops and laptops. The gaming market, for example, likely won't be able to make a huge move to tablet, especially as far as core gamers go. Those who deal in word processing are likely to prefer the keyboard stylings of a laptop or full desktop over those of tablets, even the external keyboards often found with tablets.

But still, for many, tablets are likely to be the way to go, along with smartphones.

There's no denying that combination of mobility and power that a tablet can bring to the game, and the form factor is only likely to expand as time goes on. While the tablet may not devour the laptop or desktop the way it seems to be killing the netbook, it's clear that this form factor will be a part of the real estate for some time to come.




Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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