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IHS: netbook category doomed by 2015, iPad to blame

updated 04:04 pm EDT, Sat April 13, 2013

Netbook shipments to be down 72 percent in 2013

The netbook craze has come and gone, according to a new report from IHS iSuppli. The diminutive, low-power laptops will see shipments plummet this year, IHS says, with the category very much dead in two years' time. The main culprit in the netbook's demise: Apple's iPad.

"Netbooks shot to popularity immediately after launch because they were optimized for low cost," IHS analyst Craig Stice says in the firm's new report, pointed out by the Los Angeles Times. "However, netbooks began their descent into oblivion with the introduction in 2010 of Apple's iPad."

The netbook category peaked in 2010 with 32.14 million units shipped. IHS' report has the industry shipping 3.97 million netbooks in 2013. That's down 72 percent from 2012's 14.13 million units.

The news only gets worse for the category. IHS projects 264,000 netbooks shipped in 2014. By 2015, IHS sees no netbooks shipped. Most major manufacturers have already abandoned or are in the process of halting netbook production.

The decline of the netbook is one extreme example of the overall drop in traditional PC sales. As consumers increasingly turn to smartphones and tablets, they are finding less need for traditional computing form factors. Netbooks -- once thought to be a means of bridging the gap between normal computer forms and consumers' desire for cheaper, more portable devices -- have suffered especially with the rise of particularly tablets, but also smartphones, as consumers are finding that they can accomplish most of the things they use computers for without a traditional computer -- what Apple CEO Tim Cook has called the "post-PC era."

Prior to the release of the iPad, some analysts had expected for Apple to release its own netbook in order to join in the wider industry trend. Then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs repeatedly dismissed netbooks as substandard devices.

"The problem is: netbooks aren't better at anything," Jobs said in introducing Apple's iPad. "They're slow, they have low-quality displays, and they run clunky, old PC software... We don't think that they're a third-category device."




By Electronista Staff
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  1. rumplestiltskin

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-19-10

    Good Riddance

    However, it doesn't mean the "computer" category is dead unless companies (including Apple) continue to make mediocre products.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    People are still making netbooks?

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    Experts?

    Not many, and not for long.

    I just loved it how three or four years ago all the analysts and industry "experts" were writing about how Apple "had to" start selling a netbook, or they would be doomed.

    Except, whoops, not only did Apple not build one, they in the most explicit and literal terms killed that entire class of device with what they did make. Yet all those same analysts and experts still have jobs and editorial page space, and people are still listening to them as if they have any idea what they're talking about. I suppose they had *some* point in that people do, indeed, want cheap computing devices, but even then Apple's Mac sales have been nothing but upward the entire time since then.

    I also find it hilarious to look at the same firms making these long-term sales projections--probably IHS themselves, if you go back and look--pontificiating in specific numbers about things in fast-moving technology areas that they cannot possibly have any idea about. I'm quite sure that in 2010 if you asked the exact same firms what netbook sales would be in 2015 they would have given you some preposterously huge number based entirely on a linear extrapolation of past data. NONE of them would have said "zero".

  1. TomMcIn

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-21-01

    Analysts Extrapolation

    Most of those "fill-em-up-the-page with click-bait" analysts make their linear extrapolations from the two points that best support their BS of the day. But even worse is that they choose data sets such as number of shipments not sales and certainly not profits.
    They have always belittled Apple because it did not own the world with out realizing that quality companies like Apple or BMW or whatever, only have to make a reasonable profit and and continue to invest in innovative research.
    The current crop of whiners complain that Apple does not "hit a home run at every trip to the plate" then completely ignore the "batting averages" of all the others.

  1. iphonerulez

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-28-08

    Remembering the cheapskates...

    and how they loved Windows netbooks because they only cost around $300. Those things weren't even worth $150 but Microsoft had to make a nice profit installing Windows on all of them. Yeah, the analysts all chimed in like a herd of sheep, saying Apple was done for because all the smart companies were building Windows netbooks. Of course, netbooks were really designed to run Linux and be sold in places like Mumbai and rural cities in Russia and China. They were made of the cheapest components money could buy with absolutely terrible displays and weak Atom processors. But merely because they could run Windows software, Adobe Flash and had a bevy of ports, those Windows fanboys thought they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Steve Jobs said they sucked and as soon as the iPad hit the streets, the days of the Windows netbook were at an end.

    The tech-nerds swore no iPad could ever replace those cheap and plentiful Windows netbooks, but average consumers were glad to dump Windows as quickly as possible. Farewell, Windows netbooks. You won't be missed at all. Your supposed ten-year reign as the greatest mobile platform ever only lasted about three years and not one company got rich from making them. The analysts' predictions were totally wrong, but they're still calling for Apple's doom. That's one thing that never changes.

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    LOL

    Originally Posted by iphonerulezView Post

    and how they loved Windows netbooks because they only cost around $300. Those things weren't even worth $150 but Microsoft had to make a nice profit installing Windows on all of them. Yeah, the analysts all chimed in like a herd of sheep, saying Apple was done for because all the smart companies were building Windows netbooks. Of course, netbooks were really designed to run Linux and be sold in places like Mumbai and rural cities in Russia and China. They were made of the cheapest components money could buy with absolutely terrible displays and weak Atom processors. But merely because they could run Windows software, Adobe Flash and had a bevy of ports, those Windows fanboys thought they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Steve Jobs said they sucked and as soon as the iPad hit the streets, the days of the Windows netbook were at an end.

    The tech-nerds swore no iPad could ever replace those cheap and plentiful Windows netbooks, but average consumers were glad to dump Windows as quickly as possible. Farewell, Windows netbooks. You won't be missed at all. Your supposed ten-year reign as the greatest mobile platform ever only lasted about three years and not one company got rich from making them. The analysts' predictions were totally wrong, but they're still calling for Apple's doom. That's one thing that never changes.




    You fanbois are all the same. Anybody who buys affordable hardware are all "cheapskates."

    In my opinion, the iPad didn't kill the netbook, Microsoft did. Asus had great momentum by offering a VERY affordable laptop with their dist. of Xandros on it. Once it started selling like hotcakes, MS had to butt in and screw everything up. You're right that they were designed to run linux.

    Anyway, you know what the biggest difference between a netbook and the iPad is? Content creation. My EEE has a full blown desktop OS. It has a built in SD card reader. I use it to process RAW images on the fly while on the road. My iPad, not so much. Apple likes to nickel-and-dime their customers with accessories, like the SD reader. Then again "pay" for an editing app, after praying that iOS even supports the RAW format for my camera, etc, etc. It's a kludge solution, if you can even call it that. My netbook running Xubuntu and Gimp works fantastic. Sure, it might take an extra 3 seconds to load and process each RAW image compared to a more powerful laptop, but at least it works!

    Same applies for office documents. I have Pages on the iPad, but you have to get an bluetooth keyboard to effectively create any type of document. I can type *maybe* 20wpm on the virtual keyboard, but on a real keyboard, I'm closer to 70~80wpm. Another "accessory" I have to purchase for the iPad.

    It's all about content creation. The iPad is a great tool and I use it every day, just not for productivity. Yet I still use my netbook (which I bought over five years ago, for half the cost of an iPad) on a weekly basis. I love both of them.

  1. Eldernorm

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-26-07

    Steve was right

    "Netbooks — once thought to be a means of bridging the gap between normal computer forms and consumers' desire for cheaper, more portable devices "

    Blogger and pundit thinking that also runs most companies. More of the same but tweak something. People want cheaper computers so just make them cheaper......... NO ONE except Steve Jobs looked at What people wanted to do with these cheaper computers. NO ONE ever spends more effort past the basic so we just get more of the same crap with regular computer companies.

    Just look at Microsoft... Years of tweaking their software and just adding more of the same. .

    JAT
    en

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    Same applies for office documents. I have Pages on the iPad, but you have to get an bluetooth keyboard to effectively create any type of document. I can type *maybe* 20wpm on the virtual keyboard, but on a real keyboard, I'm closer to 70~80wpm. Another "accessory" I have to purchase for the iPad.



    And your netbook keeps up with 70-80 wpm?

  1. shifuimam

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: 08-15-06

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    Anyway, you know what the biggest difference between a netbook and the iPad is? Content creation.



    Yep. This times a billion.

    I have netbooks and several Android tablets, including an Asus Transformer TF300 with the keyboard. The Transformer is absolutely great for text content creation, but for doing other stuff, you still can't beat a real computer that can run things like Photoshop, Visio, and whatever else you might want or need to get work done.

    The iPad was the right time and the right place, introduced to a market that, thanks to netbooks, was interested in the next big novelty that made accessing Facebook on the go cheap and fun.

    Netbooks opened up people to the idea of powerful, affordable, compact computer hardware. The iPad took away the functionality of a computer but added the novelty and appeal of a high-quality touch screen. Today, many laptops are coming with quality touch screens, thanks to Windows 8's touch-friendly Metro interface. Dell has a new XPS laptop with a display that flips to turn it into a tablet far more powerful than anything Android or iOS has to offer.

    I've said this before in various threads, and I still think it has validity - the iPad needs to innovate if it wants to continue to compete with the ever-changing demands of very fickle consumers. It will continue to sell because the iTunes/iOS marriage ensures customer loyalty, since all your paid apps won't run on Android or Windows 8 RT. Even so, if the iPad's next one or two or three hardware revisions maintain the same now-tired design (a touchscreen slate with no real expandability via a docking port, USB host, storage slots, etc), I don't think that it will be able to really compete.

    Hell, I can't believe Apple is still resisting the idea of a touch screen on the iMac. The stupid Launchpad that was introduced with Lion begs to be touched. I checked out the newest 27" iMac at Best Buy the other day and, after playing with a number of Windows 8 desktops and laptops with touchscreens, automatically tried to use the screen as a touch device. Rather disappointing that it's a premium machine without what is quickly becoming a standard feature.

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    And your netbook keeps up with 70-80 wpm?



    Mine does (Acer and HP netbooks). So does my Transformer's keyboard dock.

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    The iPad certainly helped kill netbooks, but netbooks sucked which helped kill them too.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Fair Enough about the typing speed.

    It strikes me that everything that you write about the iPad's limitations (”taking away the functionality of a computer") is purely a software issue.

    The sole advantage — apart from a physical keyboard — that a netbook had is that it ran the entire existing catalog of software.
    This is being remedied as we speak.

    FWIW, the iPad started out as a novelty in this household, but it has turned out that, for one, my computer is now almost purely a work machine, and for another, the iPad has taken on the role of ca. $1,500+ worth of dedicated studio hardware controllers, and thus earned a permanent place in my work setup (yes, content creation).

    If you re-watch the iPad introduction, Steve makes a point that a device in between smartphones and traditional PCs must do SOME things significantly BETTER than either of those.
    What does a netbook do better?


    I doubt that Apple will add touch to the Macintosh line. It would be useful for things like LaunchPad, and would remain exactly as gimmicky and useless. Launchpad isn't an interaction model; it's built around familiarity for switchers coming through iOS.

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Wha?

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    FWIW, the iPad started out as a novelty in this household, but it has turned out that, for one, my computer is now almost purely a work machine, and for another, the iPad has taken on the role of ca. $1,500+ worth of dedicated studio hardware controllers, and thus earned a permanent place in my work setup (yes, content creation).



    So you're saying that emulating control hardware (knobs and switches) with your iPad is the same as editing images in Gimp/Photoshop, writing/compiling code, typing resumes and filling out expense report spreadsheets, etc, etc? That's a stretch.

    Look man, I'm not trying to dis the iPad. I'm just saying it's designed to consume information, not create it. That might change in the next 2~4 years depending on where Apple takes iOS, but where it stands now, a netbook (or any computer, really) runs circles around it.

  1. P

    Moderator

    Joined: 04-07-00

    Writing resumes, filling out expense reports and editing images are all emminently possible on an iPad. Compiling is not, but that's only because of Apple's restrictions. The iPad hasn't stood still these three years.

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    So you're saying that emulating control hardware (knobs and switches) with your iPad is the same as editing images in Gimp/Photoshop, writing/compiling code, typing resumes and filling out expense report spreadsheets, etc, etc? That's a stretch.

    Look man, I'm not trying to dis the iPad. I'm just saying it's designed to consume information, not create it. That might change in the next 2~4 years depending on where Apple takes iOS, but where it stands now, a netbook (or any computer, really) runs circles around it.



    Don't bluetooth keyboards work with iPad?

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    So you're saying that emulating control hardware (knobs and switches) with your iPad is the same as editing images in Gimp/Photoshop, writing/compiling code, typing resumes and filling out expense report spreadsheets, etc, etc? That's a stretch.



    No. I'm saying that the limitations people are seeing in the iPad are mostly software-related and partly prejudice.

    The iPad has strengths and does a number of things BETTER than a regular computer.

    My iPad now operates as a hardware controller for a JX-8P (replacing a $600 PG-800), for the MKS-70 (replacing another PG-800 AND being able to do a LOT more than that dedicated controller ever could), for the Matrix 6 and Matrix 1000 (there are gimped hardware controllers that do a fraction of the iPad programming layouts I have that cost between $350 and $600), AND for the DX7 (forgot about that one earlier. A hardware programmer was built for that, 25 pieces made, the only one I've ever seen for sale was on eBay for 3000€ last month. Edit: It's still on sale for 2900€.).

    And it does so CHEAPER than a PC: the iPad was 250€, and the apps I use — three of them — were 15€ (MIDI Designer), 15€ (MIDI Touch), and 4€ (Touch OSC), IIRC. A decent multi-editor for the Mac (Unisyn is pretty much the only option) is 280€. That doubles as a librarian - advantage Mac. But that doesn't have multitouch and is useless as a LIVE controller to be used while playing.

    Oh, and the iPad doubles as a studio remote. I don't know what hardware was available for that, but recording assistants/tape operators are not cheap.


    It may not be right for whatever YOU are trying to do, but after having spent a weekend with an extremely talented artist and watching her handle an iPad for the first time in her life, I can say that the following statement is simply completely untrue in the year 2013:

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    I'm just saying it's designed to consume information, not create it. That might change in the next 2~4 years depending on where Apple takes iOS, but where it stands now, a netbook (or any computer, really) runs circles around it.


    It HAS changed, substantially, in the past three years.

    I have shown you a use case where the iPad runs circles around any netbook or computer.

    If you'd used iPhoto on an iPad, you'd realize that that interface, too, runs circles around a regular computer (for *most* users).

    For CASUAL content creation, the iPad has very much come into its own. For special-use cases, it can be a lot BETTER than regular computers (and certainly netbooks), depending upon the software available.

    Netbooks were better than regular computers for very special-use cases (though the only cases I've ever heard about was photography remote/prelim editing, and one sysadmin who was using it as a cheap portable terminal), and worse at pretty much everything else.

    And the market seems to agree. I was actually not feigning surprise in my first reply up above. I did not realize netbooks were still being made. I'd mentally closed the book on that subject when Asus stopped making them. I haven't seen anybody use one in years.

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