Self-proclaimed telecom Blogalyst and all-around great guy Dave Michels recently posted some interesting observations about Microsoft, the sorry state of the PC industry and the demise of the netbook category. As someone who has counted a couple of netbooks as important tools in my arsenal I’ve been pondering his assertions. While I agree with many of his observations, I’m not so certain that I draw the same conclusions. Netbooks were doomed to be transitional items from the start.
Dave is correct that Microsoft took a dim view of netbooks, offering only Windows XP Home at a price point that would permit them to retail in the $200-300 range, at least initially. Recall that the entire category was started by the Asus Eee PC. That device offered a 7.0” display, Intel Celeron CPU, 512 MB of memory and 8 GB of flash storage and sold for $199. That device tapped Linux to keep the price down and the performance acceptable.
One of the innovative aspects of the early netbooks was the use of flash-based storage. This was before SSDs were commonplace. It was a great way to eek some performance from otherwise pokey hardware.
The category evolved quite quickly, with most netbooks offering traditional hard drives for storage and displays in the 9-10” range. Most were based upon Intel’s Atom CPU family. At their peak they sold in the range of $350-500. Only the occasional model reached beyond those prices.