The article touches on it lightly, but the real reason you can't say netbooks are dead is that the entire concept of a "netbook" was bullshit from the very beginning. Manufacturers wanted to put some pressure on their suppliers to lower prices, so they invented a category of low-price and low-quality laptops. Consumers never really paid that much attention, because anyone who actually picked up a netbook could tell that they were garbage.
Turns out that selling low-quality computers for cheap and making up the difference on volume is a difficult business model to make profit in. Now the manufacturers want to chase Apple by building "ultrabooks", which is marketing-speak for "laptops that aren't complete shit". But Apple is years ahead because they didn't waste time on netbooks, and they've got their logistics so optimized that they can make a fat profit on prices that would leave other manufacturers taking a loss on each sale.
You'll know that PC manufacturers have figured out how to correctly apply the Apple model when they:
* Stop plastering their products with advertising stickers.
* Trim their product lines back to the core (How many laptop models does Dell sell? How long did it take you to figure out?)
* Invest in build quality and reliability, potentially at the cost of end-user repairability.
Netbooks don't strike me as garbage at all. I have a desktop (well, more of a desk-holder-up since it's a tower) and that's what I use for any kind of processor-intensive work. When I'm mobile, I don't want to do anything more complex than editing a document, and I don't need an expensive high-powered laptop for that.
Come to that, a typical netbook configuration of some atom-style processor and 2gb of memory is not that bad - that would have been a high-powered machine 8 or 10 years ago and with an SSD it's pretty nippy.
Invest in build quality and reliability, potentially at the cost of end-user repairability.
I've also gotten a lot of use out of my netbook. Small, long battery life, and can do just about everything my desktop/laptop can. All for $300 (a price point I could never imagine seeing from Apple). I can see that they're not for everyone and for many consumers tablets may be a better choice, but for me the netbook was cheaper and I could do more with it.
I think the main reason netbooks are considered garbage by many is that they decided to cram Windows XP into underpowered machines, which meant a horribly slow laptop with poor battery life, with the only advantage being that it was small and cheap.
For me, a netbook replaced a $2000+ Fujitsu subnotebook which ran Linux. It was fast enough to run a web browser and most of the CPU intensive work (compiling etc) was done on a remote server anyway. The build quality was actually about the same, the main difference was the lack of an optical drive (which I didn't need anyway).
The "netbook" concept was not bullshit at all. It was the first inexpensive small laptop. The EEE PC which coined the term netbook, was inspired by / a response to the OLPC XO-1.
The price was achieved not primarily by lowering quality but by replacing Windows with Linux, a hard drive with a small flash storage, and by using an underclocked processor and dropping the optical drive.
Other laptop makers merely followed suit as soon as the saw that the EEE PC was a huge success.
Laptops were cheap and crappy long before netbooks appeared.
I'm a very reluctant laptop user, I don't like them one bit. They're expensive, they break and then you can't get the parts or you can barely service them yourself.
And yet I love my little acer aspire one. It's been all over the planet with me, has taken considerable abuse. Does 3G out of the box and even after some years of pretty hard use still has ample battery life (but that must be luck because I keep reading bad stories about the batteries). It absolutely refuses to be killed, believe me I tried.
I definitely would not call it garbage, though this may well be an instance of survivor bias. I run ubuntu NBR on it (an old one, it just works so I didn't bother upgrading it) and I would not trade it for a larger laptop or a tablet. I haven't been this satisfied about a computer since I had a compaq aero. Which I think qualifies as the original netbook (ok, you'd have to add pcmcia ethernet for that and it would be terribly slow).
I'm not sure where you are getting you impression from but the non technical-professional people I know (including students, young professionals and other "target market" people) all seriously consider and sometimes buy a <350euro, "netbook." They travel well, look cute and mostly do everything people need them to do.
The things to copy from Apple is not the sticker policy or the price or any other specific. What (some, not all) companies could copy is principles. "Insist on a high margin and take risks to build products that can command them." It's not the only good strategy out there. Others (eg Samsung) are doing great work with a value-for-money-at-the-higher-end strategy.
Netbooks are very useful devices. A lot of people around me have netbooks. Basically everyone who needs to produce (not just consume) on the go. Think students. I don't see how netbooks can be either bullshit or dead.
And they are fine qualitywise. You get what you pay for. They have awesome bang for the buck.
I deal with a lot of no brand Chinese clone junk, and I can attest that one guy from Xinjiang with a soldering iron and a few screw drivers can fix any of it in the basement of one of the e-markets here (in China). It works for about a week, and degrades depending on how often it is repaired.
In contrast, when my Apple laptop breaks under warranty, I have to trek to the Apple store, they repair, it never breaks again. You never really get it until you own one on why this is so awesome.
I doubt that happens any more. The whole unit will get swapped out instead. They are not repairable. Everything is glued in and not removable.
I've had a fair amount of apple kit - I've found it to be hideously unreliable, clunky and of dubious design. Detail things such as power isolation is not possible which bit me hard after I had an MBP catch fire just out of warranty.
I don't buy the whole quality argument. Its a perception - not a reality.
I don't know what they do if you ask for a battery replacement or when something's wrong with the SSD, but changing a display on my 2011 MacBook Air was a matter of 20 minutes. I'd be very surprised if you couldn't at least replace the moherboard.
Which, by the way, is the only type of repair the other laptop manufacturers ever offered to me.
You really don't have a clue what the rest of the OEMS are doing. Anything at the ultra book level is essentially two pieces. Your huge mega laptops are still user serviceable (like a bricky T class), but not say....a carbon.
Funny - the other day I showed a friend the top-of-the-line SAMSUNG Series 9 Ultrabook, which outspecs and outclasses Macbooks, but is slightly more expensive - guess what he said? "But at this price, you could get a Macbook!"
Yup. Whenever someone says "OMG Macs are so much more expensive than PCs!" Then you look online for a comparable PC laptop, find it....and its more expensive...always. Apple just does so well on logistics the other OEMs are crying.
I have my eye on a Carbon right now for work, its only a few hundred dollars more than a 13" air but work won't by macs.
anyone who actually picked up a netbook could tell that they were garbage
I'm going to skip a lot of things I am inclined to say, and end with two observations (as someone who hopped onto the "netbook" train right at the start):
* The 7" screen of the original Eee 701 was indeed pretty much too small
* The 10" screen of later generations was perfectly fine, except I started using the netbook as my primary computing device at which point it was not fine. (Netbooks are not primary computing devices; the fault was mine)