Netbook Revolution Over?

With Intel’s Intel’s announcement of the Atom N550 announcement yesterday, which marked a concentrated effort to bring dual-core netbook-level processors into the mainstream, Avram Piltch over at LAPTOP Magazine is declaring the netbook revolution over and asking what we’ve won.

Obviously it’s a commentary, but it brings up some good points. We’ve now reached a point where netbooks are matching the performance of 11-inch and 12-inch dual-core ultraportables from just a year or two ago, and they are doing it at a substantially cheaper price point. In some cases, they are doing a better job of it than the traditional ultraportables, since they are getting better battery life, and better weight thanks to dropping internal optical drives and better cooling systems.

Piltch thinks that they’ve succeeded so well that they have become irrelevant, and that overall it’s been a huge success – better performing, higher resolution displays, much cheaper prices.

For all intents and purposes they have reached the point where it’s hard to distinguish many of them from an ultraportable of years past. I think when we saw the first dual-core setups, along with the first displays larger than 10 inches, that it was clear that the market was shifting around. The move towards Windows 7 away from Linux and XP Home really drove that point home. However, some predicted that 10-inch displays would go away and that netbooks would resemble the higher-priced ultraportables, and that’s turned out to be partially false – 10-inch netbooks are still going strong.

I think netbooks still have a lot of life left in them and the revolution as it were maybe waning, but it’s going to be around for a while, simply because of price. While a luxury or high-end netbook may resemble an ultraportable of a few years ago as far as price and performance, there is still going to be a very large market for sub-$500 machines that function as secondary machines or “on the go” machines, perhaps for students (which gets back to the netbook’s roots).

If you want to watch where netbooks are going, it’s not going to be the ultraportable laptops that determine their fate. It’s going to be the Apple iPads and the Android-based tablets. A full tablet is not going to replace a laptop or netbook however – there are still a lot of people that are going to need keyboards and multiple ports and a full desktop/laptop OS, and neither the iPad or Android-based tablet are going to offer that. Those tablets can certainly fill in a niche that the netbooks were able to cover, but they can’t replace them in a lot of cases.

Read: LAPTOP Magazine