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.