Whither netbook?

Lately I have been using my 2008 Asus EEE netbook quite a bit and when I noticed this, I decided to look for an upgrade.

I knew that netbooks had been largely supplanted, first by tablets and later by Chromebooks, but what I had not realised is that they have disappeared completely from the market together with their ultraportable brethern.

So what is a netbook? It is a small and lightweight and cheap generic laptop, that is all. They were introduced in the mid-noughties and were then pulled off the market almost as quickly when manufacturers realised how thin the margins on these machines exactly were.

Netbooks sold for as little as 200 euro. Before netbooks were introduced you could already get ultraportable laptops in the 2000 euro price range. There was apparently a market for a laptop of that form factor even at a price ten times that of a netbook.

And I have to say, if I look at how I used my netbook in the past and how I use it now, the size and the weight keep playing a role:

  • Watching shows copied off my main PC, while in bed, with the netbook resting on my chest.
  • Blogging (including editing photos) while on the road.
  • Taking notes from meetings and brainstorms.
  • Homework for a creative writing course.
  • Doing post-processing for Distributed Proofreaders, i.e. creating e-books.
  • Listening to online radio.

(Compare with how I use my tablet.)

I guess a lot of people use smartphones for these things now. I am one of the remaining 5 people on the planet who is not a smartphone person, I realise that makes our group too small to form a market.

Retrospectives on netbooks are typically a hoot-and-a-half, with the authors clickbaitely mocking the devices and claiming nobody ever used them, after which the comments sections come alive with people who loved their netbooks and used them for all kinds of cool things.

The form factor of the netbook was important. Unlike devices like tablets, where large-format devices have carved out their own niche among for example graphic artists, a medium- to large-format netbook makes no sense. That would be the same thing as a laptop but underpowered.

My netbook has a 10 inch screen diagonal which is already on the large side.

Illustration: book sizes to compare to laptop sizes: the left-most book is pocket-sized and fits in a coat pocket. The middle book is the size of my 10-inch Asus EEE netbook and fits in a small backpack or bag. The book on the right is about the size of an 11- or 12-inch laptop and already needs something more substantial to be carried around in.

After I figured out I won’t be able to buy a modern netbook, I have looked into the possibility of upgrading the current one but that is going to require a bunch more thought. Even if I could buy 2012 era tech to replace some of the 2008 era stuff, there is no guarantee everything will work together nicely, and, more importantly, I am not sure I even need the upgrade. More storage would be nice but that is all I currently ‘need’.

One response to “Whither netbook?”

  1. brankl says:

    The thick plottens: two days after I posted this, the netbook broke down.

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