Netbook Freeze Is More Than Just a Summer Break.

Updated on 09 August 2010 by

As I was counting the netbook articles on Liliputing this morning (2 on the first 2 pages of 18 headlines) I wondered again if the netbook market might be having more than just a summer break. The push to more powerful devices (and slightly higher prices) with the next-gen CPUs and platforms seems to me like it breaks everything that the netbook was. Its over and all that remains is the momentum of the tag (which of course will be carried forward by everyone that has invested in it.)

Sasha, my good friend and fellow MeetMobility podcaster is one of those that has a lot invested in the keyword so it’s interesting to read his thoughts on it. In an article today he highlights the advances that the new platforms will bring and assures us that everything is going to be fine. If you can wait until February, he says, you’re going to have a big selection of new devices to choose from.

I have a certain amount of my business effort invested in netbooks too. If the netbook hadn’t have arrived my company would have been dead a long time ago and, like the iPad, it makes people think and mobility, size and usability. I’m not so bullish on the future of netbooks though. There are a couple of data points I’m considering and a number of other thoughts.

Google Trends

Google trends is hardly the best indicator of sales but it does indicate popularity amount searches and popularity amongst news items. Netbooks are certainly taking second place to tablets in terms of news right now and it seems that the slow down in news is also affecting users awareness of the platform. That will have a direct impact on sales. Searches for ‘netbook’ are now running at less than one fifth of searches for Android or iPad. This time last year, Android and Netbook were attracting exactly the same level of search queries. Having said that, there are almost the same number of queries for netbook as there were one year ago. Only the number of news articles has fallen.


Number of Netbooks.

By analysing the German netbook market SKU numbers and the distribution of screen sizes over the last two years it can be clearly shown that the sub 10 inch market is long gone. The 10 inch market is flattening off in terms of new products and only the 11 inch segment is rising significantly. In this months analysis it’s also clear that the total numbers of products is flattening off which could be an indicator that growth has stopped in Germany. Again, the underlying trend is one of ‘flat’ rather than growth or decay. If this can be maintained, the netbook market will remain healthy but with new product launches sowing, it will be difficult to keep momentum. Of course, if devices are simply dropping the ‘netbook’ tag in their marketing then the devices may must be selling as ‘laptops’ although that in itself indicates that the netbook trend is over.

Based on simple screen sizes and weight figures, the traditional netbook market is already over for me.

sub_12-_screen_size_distribution (1)

total_number_of_sub_12-_pcs_(germany) (2)

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18 Comments For This Post

  1. UMPCPortal says:

    New article: Netbook Freeze Is More Than Just a Summer Break.

  2. Gretchen Glasscock says:

    Netbook Freeze Is More Than Just a Summer Break.: As I was counting the netbook articles on Liliputing this mornin…

  3. brandontx1 says:

    one sure way proven that you have a great eye-sight, you want a smaller LCD screen, but they keep rolling out the big ones.
    i just goddamn want a decent super high resolution 7in LCD, not even LED or AMOLED.
    where you can just stretch it to run at 1300×760 or so..
    such a primitive age, such a device is super rare if yet existed at all.

  4. kirkdis says:

    @ brandontx1: take a look in sony vaio p. best device i own myself next to my viliv x70 and some others… sony shows that 1600x768px are possible. and trust me no viliv or other yet available device has such a nice display… my thoughts are that all the devices with 600px height are not for business use. you have to scroll all the time in websites or in outlook up and down.

  5. brandon says:

    thx for headsup info bud, i’ve pretty much tried and pried them all out there heh heh.
    the 8inch vao, love love the layout design and stuff, just the battery run-time, downner. tried both viliv 5 and 7 as well, gotten quite hot after awhile..
    it’s all fine though, i’m all good with a 10in HP atm lol.
    next big hope, samsung galaxy tab..
    heads up guys, thx

  6. Not Lofty says:

    What do you mean by traditional netbook market? Is 10″ too big for that? Cause I think the 10″ are here to stay for awhile and new advancements will bring more interest back to the market. The dual core atoms in netbooks will help and maybe stuff like meego or pixelqi and ssds.

  7. Chippy says:

    If we look back to the peak of the netbook excitement it wasn’t just about 10″ screens. 8.9 and even 7″ were used for a lot of products and I loved some of those for ultra mobile computing.
    10″ Is likely to stay and remain the dominant screen size for a while though. I don’t expect it go away but when I see the dual-core, HDV, 3D GPUs I long for a time when it was a simple set-up focusing on small, light and cheap.

  8. zeo says:

    Small, light, and cheap hasn’t stopped being part of the netbook focus. Problem is keeping them Small, light, and cheap has always been a balancing act. Especially with the extremely small profit margin…

    The market for them was just basically easy because there wasn’t really any competition and they could afford to not push for advancement like every other part of the computer market and keep with the minimal specs that worked for them. Consequently, letting them lower the cost of production and offer pretty much the same product for ever decreasing price, with the only real improvement over the last 2 years being mainly just improved energy efficiency for better battery run times.

    But now netbooks are seeing competitive products that are beginning to have features that overlap into what previously only netbooks could offer.

    So now that balancing act is becoming a tight rope as netbooks now have to start working like the rest of the computer market and start offering better features but still keep between the ARM devices and CULV sides of the market.

    I thus don’t see this as a sign that netbooks will start going away but rather that they will have to evolve and change just like every other part of the computer market has done…

  9. John says:

    Well the truth is that you only need to replace computers when they stop doing what you need them to do. The whole reason that people bought all of these netbooks is that they only needed them to surf the net and make word files. Seeing as these computers are only going to break down every couple years and the chances that people will suddenly need to do more with their computers is slim. It is highly probable that the market will reach the saturation point relativity quickly.

    Chippy, do you have the similar numbers for the American or UK market?

  10. Chippy says:

    Sorry. I have only researched German market.

  11. Tikel says:

    dont worry, samething will happen to the smartphone & tablet markets as Android is already flooding with 4.3″ devices & saturation is causing interest lessen (look at website stats).

    the netbook craze couldnt last forever, they are now a commodity item like traditional laptops have been for years. whens the last time you saw the mainstream give a shit about laptops?

  12. DavidC1 says:

    There is a whole lot of “what IFs” here. The only thing that seem related to Netbook marketshare being reduced is this: “73% of the devices are running on Intel Atom. That’s down from 78% in March.”

    Which might just mean CULV took some marketshare. The site looks are number of designs available. Reduction in Netbook designs are merely because there’s nothing much special manufacturers can do with limited differences for Netbook Atoms.

    Let’s see it again when the dual core Pine Trail devices are out. When devices are sold in high enough quantities, you can’t just pin it to “impulse buying” and “hype/cute” factor.

    All this means more choices, which are good for us.

  13. Chippy says:

    Yes. A lot of ‘what if’ scenarios form. The Q3/Q4 market will get under way in a few weeks and we’ll be able to see the numbers of products and media reaction. Will they call them netbooks?

    At the end of the day, it looks like the only thing that will happen is that the word ‘netbook’ becomes unfasionable as it remains associated with early netbook market. Liliputing got the name right ;-)

  14. CharlesInCanada says:

    Hey Chippy, another interesting and thought provoking study!

    I, also, get the impression that the iPad has changed the focus away from netbooks – at least in the 10″ screen size. It seems everybody and his brother has a 10″ tablet in the works and most are not going to be running windows. I for one am eagerly waiting for the ADAM with its Tegra2 and Pixel Qi screen – at last a screen one can bring and use outside! I expect this fall and winter will be very interesting.

    The net effect might very well be the end of the 10″ netbook in favour of bigger screens (and keyboards). It will be interesting to see how popular dual-core ATOM based netbooks/notebooks will be (I expect they will be, at the expense of the traditional laptop).

  15. Clio says:

    1.) A general sentiment towards Netbooks has built up among consumers, that ANY Atom CPU will not be enough to fulfil the usual consumers’ requirements.
    2.) People are more willing to spend the difference, between a Netbook and a Sub-Notebook, than the previous 2 years.
    3.) There are now i3, i5, even i7 laptops/notebooks that are sized, weighted, and with battery-life similar to netbooks.

    As the economic condition would likely continue to improve, and power/size advancements in full-fledged CPUs, I think Atom’s time as a CPU inside non-pocketable/non-embedded devices is almost up. And since the public associate the term “Netbook” too much with “Atom CPUs”, rather than the 10″-under laptop form factor, the keyword “Netbook” will indeed die along with “Atom”.

    But regardless of whether the term “netbook” survives, I think there will be a steady stream of “10-inch or under” laptops/notebooks from now on, perhaps with full-fledged CPUs and a notebook-like price tag.

    And for that, I’m very, very grateful that Atom happened. Atom netbooks made available to us full PCs that we can comfortably carry all day, and showed us that it can be done with today’s technology.

  16. Chippy says:

    Its an interesting thought that Atom could suffer with the decline of the netbook keyword. I hadn’t thought of that angle although I personally don’t associate Atom with lack of ability. I associate it with good battery life and portability.

  17. AM Electronics says:

    to quote davidC1, there are a lot of “what ifs” here so nothing is absolutely certain. Then again, if there were not any what ifs life would be quite dull and uninteresting.

  18. Igor says:

    Well, don’t know if there are others like me, but here’s my thought on the netbook.
    I first had a EeePC 701. It was great back then.Very small, and light, and @ 180 euros it was cheap!
    And it was faster(the Celeron@900!!) then my previous notebook, a 14″ Dell Pentium@1MHz
    But, the screen size and resolution was just not comfortable for me.
    If I wanted to read something, i had to lean towards the screen while sitting at the desk with my hands comfortably placed for typing.
    Battery life was also not great, at 2,5 max 3h
    Soo, I then wanted a 901 series with an Atom, and a spare battery.
    Just at that time 901 was starting to run out of stock everywhere,
    and I then in the end decided to cash out a lot more money for a netbook,
    which will do all I want from it, since it is my only computer.
    I bought a Samsung NC10 that just came out.
    It gave me a very comfortable screen size and resolution (although i sometimes wished for more then 600 vertical)
    enough processing power (especially with Samsung’s overclocking at 1,8(?))
    and enough battery life at about 5,5-6 hours on average use with USB 3G dongle,
    and almost 9 if it just played mp3 non stop with power savings.
    I now own a Toshiba NB200 and just because I gave the Samsung to my sister.
    Toshiba has just a bit of extra runtime, and a brighter glossy screen,
    but the Samsung is way more higher quality (plastics,paint,keyboard and touchpad)
    But still, it’s enough for me, and I wont buy anything else till this netbook is still working.
    The size is just right,and the weight at 1,3kg might not be to good, it’s still acceptable because of the large 6 cell battery and it’s runtime.
    New Atoms now last even longer (11h for the Asus?) but it’s not enough a reason for me to buy a new one, if this one is still working.
    I take it everywhere with me in a small backpack, or just in my hand.Works for me.

    What netbooks might use is some more processing power(video too) while keeping agood run times.
    What I DON’T want is more processing power, but with drastically decreased run time,
    and a huge 12″ format that ION Asus is offering.
    10″ is just a perfect compromise for me,and I’m sure for most users out there.
    It does everything i need,and I can take it everywhere with me.

    What could make me spend some money now, is an 5″ ultraportable, with all day long battery life,
    at a reasonable price.
    I don’t say it must run Windows, but it has to work as a netbook, i won’t accept anything less (inline flash,firefox,skype video calls)
    Viliv N5 is a nice candidate, but still a bit to much at $800 for something I’m not sure will work for me (5″ screen and cramped keyboard)
    But it’s a true ultraportable allright ! :)
    What I’m disappointed with the N5 is a lack of ANY video output.
    At least a VGA out so I can hook it up to a decent screen at home for crying out loud!
    Pay more for a video out ?? No way! It’s very expensive as it is.

    As someone mentioned, Sony Vaio P is a great not so little netbook(with the recent “facelift” and usable 3G for EU),
    but battery life just doesn’t cut it.The EeePC 701 lasted longer then that!
    But otherwise it’s a nice productivity netbook with a large keyboard,
    and a very wide screen (allowing side by side applications)
    looks great and is nicely built, but without a long battery life, it’s just a gadget to show off in a local café while sipping your espresso.
    But if the price was just lower, maybe some one could live with a short battery life.
    But as it is, I’ll rather buy Viliv N5 then Sony Vaio P.

    Just my thoughts .. and probably I’m not alone in “why buy new when this one is still working?” (and the new ones are not offering much more then more run time)
    It looks to me like the market will split to 5″ ultraportables (whatever platform they are) and usual 10″ netbook format(probably not offering anything more then now, for the same price)


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