Netbook sales in 2012 reached 14.13 million units sold. That may sound like a solid number, but the expected 2013 sales numbers look bleak. Only 3.97 million units will be sold at the current rate of sales. Predictions place sales at only 264,000 for 2014 and zero by 2015. Based on these predictions, it definitely seems like the netbook could be finished.
One problem with the “netbook is finished” prediction, however, is the consumer. The consumer likes the lightweight, incredibly portable ease of the netbook. But this niche of the market could also be fulfilled by the tablet hybrid.
What Happened to the Netbook?
The netbook’s rapid decline can be blamed on the tablet, a product that was incredibly innovative and good at meeting all of the consumer’s needs. The iPad is not the only tablet responsible, but it started the revolution. The iPad was so successful that other companies quickly jumped on board the tablet superhighway. Several companies, including Acer and Dell, have discontinued their netbook lines. Many companies are now focusing forward toward the ultrabook or the tablet.
The ultrabook is similar to a tablet hybrid. Intel developed the idea and the parameters of this new class of computers: The ultrabook has to have the processing power of a regular computer and the capabilities of a tablet. Some of the criteria for the ultrabook include a thickness of only 0.7 inches for a 13.3-inch display or smaller, a low-powered Intel CPU (central processing unit), and a battery life of at least five hours. Every major brand of computer manufacturer has versions of the ultrabook that meet the requirements passed down by Intel.
What Is the Tablet Hybrid?
This is where things get a little tricky. The hybrid is a tablet with an optional keyboard. The design of many of these models is sleek, light, and portable. The consumer will be looking at about a $500 price tag, about the same as an iPad, but the keyboard and docking station will cost another $250.
The docking station recharges the tablet, and the battery life seems to be great in laptop mode. For example, an 11-inch HP Envy x2 lasts nearly 12 hours on a single charge, while the W510 lasts just over 15 hours with its dock. However, switching to tablet mode reduces these numbers by 33 to 50 percent.
What Is the Best Deal?
This is a tough question right now. The hybrid’s CPU is a bit of a lightweight. Benchmarks are placing it at about 1/5 the speed of the average ultrabook. Currently, ultrabooks and hybrid tablets are about the same price. Different manufacturers have different configurations and different prices. The ultrabook has the increased processing power, but the tablet is smaller and easier to handle. It really boils down to what the individual consumer needs or wants.
Netbook sales show that the netbook may be dead, or close to it, at least for now. However, the hybrid has been born in its place. How long will it survive in today’s market? No one knows. The netbook may be back one day, but for now, tablets appear to be the model of choice.