Acer still believes in netbooks for some reason

Acer still believes in netbooks for some reason

Summary: Other manufacturers have been bailing out of the once-hot market, but Acer vows to keep making the little laptops.

TOPICS: Laptops, Mobility

You may have noticed that tablets have pretty much killed the market for netbooks. Once about 20 percent of the laptop market, the small and cheap notebooks now constitute less than 10 percent of portable sales.

That's led companies like Dell and Lenovo to abandon the category, and even Asus, which once dominated the segment, has ditched notebooks for tablets of varying flavors. And Google's attempt to promote its Chromebook platform has largely been a dud. But none of this seems to have deterred Acer, which refuses to stop producing netbooks.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal,  Acer chairman and CEO J.T. Wang claims that netbooks aren't dead, and vows to continue producing them even though Asustek CEO Jerry Shen believes the netbook category will expire in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Why is Acer staking a stand on netbooks? Wang says that the devices are still selling well in developing nations, though he points out that sales in developed nations match those in developing nations. While there is a certain logic that a cheaper system might still have legs in developing economies, smaller tablets now cost less than netbooks, provide many of the same features, and are frankly far sexier products. (Of course, Acer hasn't made a huge splash in the tablet world, so it's not exactly gaining huge dividends from that hot category.) And as Intel continues to work with its hardware partners to lower the prices of Ultrabooks, those systems will chip away at whatever market share netbooks still have.

Do you agree that Acer shouldn't give up on netbooks? Or have tablets killed the category? Let us know in the Talkback section below. 

Topics: Laptops, Mobility

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  • Maybe for niche purposes

    There might still be a niche for them. It's okay for a manufacturer to still keep making them if there's still demand.
    • I'm such a niche

      The equipment needs a hard-reset and re-programming or some such thing, and it's 120ft up a tower. Up you go! "Bloody USB dongle isn't working right. I NEED a real ethernet port!" This is then followed by "Oops! I dropped my ..."

      Okay. I admit not too many people need to do stuff like that. But this is where a netbook excels, especially one with an SSD. No moving parts! Small enough to fit into a small backpack. Light enough so that when you do drop it, the security tether won't rip out. I have yet to find a security tether on a tablet.

      But yeah. Tower climbers are a niche market for sure.
    • More than nice

      I just completed setting up the Acer netbook pictured in the article for a client, and I'm seriously impressed. Specifically the screen is gorgeous at a proper 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, i.e. good enough to run Windows 8 with apps snapping available. It's at BestBuy for $279.99, and that's with Windows 7 64bit home premium installed.

      Good luck, Tablets of the World, getting to that price level: you'll need it.

      Imagine if Acer could fit a touch screen too... It'd still be a fully functional Win 8 experience for around $300.

      And if Acer won't for fear of eating into their own tablet play, then others surely will.
      Han CNX
  • Idiots still believe in tablets for some reason

    The reason Acer still makes netbooks is because people buy them. The reason people still buy them is because unlike tablets, they are actually useful devices.

    "Smaller tablets now cost less than netbooks"? Really? A midrange Acer Aspire One costs around $300. Few tablets cost much less than that (the iPad certainly doesn't), and any tablet on the market for less than that is usually such a tiny, hobbled piece of trash that it's not worth the plastic it's packaged in.

    "[Tablets] provide many of the same features." That's true. However, what kind of incentive is that? "Buy a tablet instead of a netbook, because a tablet does some of what a netbook does." Doesn't seem like a good marketing line to me. I'd rather get a device that does ALL of what I want to do, rather than something that does only some of what I want to do.

    "...and are frankly far sexier products." Does anyone still take this idea seriously? Does anyone honestly believe that you can sustain a market based on "sexy" products? Tablets are hot now and certainly serve a niche application, but serious users have already gotten tired of typing on a glass screen that covers up half of the display and offers no tactile feedback. In a few years when the tablet fad subsides, people will still be buying little laptops that provide a real keyboard and a screen that's big enough to have a couple of windows open but small enough to be light and portable. Anyone who thinks that portable device with physical keyboards are the past might want to stop watching advertisements for a moment and look at what real people are actually doing.
    • Well, then

      Well, then I guess most people are idiots and you're just the genius that humanity has been waiting for to guide us into a new era of electronic productivity.
    • Change is faster than you think

      I'm not an early adopter in any area, but I just got my first tablet. Dual processor, separate graphics processor, 8GB of storage, USB port, HDMI port, earphone plug to take a mic in as along side audio out.

      Runs reasonably fast for most portable needs, allowed my to download and install a better virtual keyboard than factory, battery last 5 hours even watching The Daily Show (when I'm catching up for the month).

      More portable, just as good as my previous Asus netbook. All for the massive cost of 93 USD (with free shipping to boot). No buyers regret here.
    • Love My Netbook

      I have a tablet and a netbook. When I'm at meetings, I bring the netbook. Why? Because I do actual work on it. I'm not interested in "sexy" as much as I am in "productive."

      My techs also find netbooks quite handy in the field. Need to check a network outlet's connectivity? Or maybe connect directly to a switch to configure it? Our netbooks with their old-fashioned copper Ethernet connections allow it.

      I do enjoy playing games and watching movies on my tablet, though.
  • Windows 8 tablets will kill of any need for netbooks

    Although they'll be more expensive. Netbooks serve a niche for those who must have Windows but want a small computer. The low resolutions make them tricky to use though.
    • I don't think so.

      I just don't see a 10" Windows tablet with Keyboard dock selling for $250.00, which is about what most of these Netbook sell for at Walmart and places like that. Windows RT tablets are probably going to start at twice that price. And for people of limited means, $250.00 is serious money.
    • No

      Cheap Windows 8 tablets will be running Windows RT on ARM processors, so no backward compatibility with x86 Windows programs. The x86 Windows 8 tablets will be much more expensive than netbooks.

      So for running real Windows applications at very affordable and portable price, netbooks and small laptops slightly bigger than netbooks are still the best way.

      And no doubt that when Windows 8 comes out some of these netbooks/small laptops will add touch capability for a bit more money and still be affordable and be the best of both worlds!
  • Good for Acer

    The simple truth is: a netbook is really all most people need. That's because most people use their computers for surfing the net, answering e-mail, checking in on Facebook and, of they're still in school, writing the odd term paper. A 10" netbook will allow you to do all these things for $250.00 or so.
    • And can do more than that

      With today's crop of Intel Atom processors and AMD's APUs adequate processing power with good graphics built-in makes them able devices for some game play as well though you might want to use an external monitor for this, playing games on 10" is atrocious!
    • Netbooks...not a gaming problem

      People buying netbooks aren't interested in playing serious games on their machine. They have PS3s, Xbox, Wii...and even a larger desktop PC that's more powerful & has a larger screen for proper gaming.

      Much of the average consumers understands that their cheap netbooks shouldn't be used for gaming, unless they bought it with the proper hardware setup.
  • They do have some value

    Considering most tablets do not have USB ports or a decent size storage capacity. I think a netbook can still be useful and especially the last ones I have tried in stores are much faster then what I remembered at first when they came out. You know you can buy one for under $300 which is $200 less then a iPad? I can tell you if I was going to college I would buy one because battery life is good and its compact. Plus if I drop it I won't be so devistated. Just because its not popular and the fad crowd has moved on. Does not mean a tablet is better.
  • Duh

    Remember 3D? All that hype. Where are those products this year? Great marketing and hype doesn't make it so. In other words, tablet convertibles? Windows 8? Replacing netbooks eh? Yeah a price point what, almost double? Interesting. It's called collusion. Kill the Atom improvements (Intel), create a replacement (Ultrabooks), get the partners to kill of the less profitable and let consumers choose between the new price point laptops/hybrids. Hybrids are ugly, way more expensive and are relying on a OS (Windows 8) that nobody knows about. Yeah, 3D was the S too. Remember that? From "their" perspective, a killing off makes sense. From ours (consumers) we probably don't want the price point to go up right? If they don't make them anymore, they have forced the market to accept the more expensive. It's an Apple play, except in reverse. Apple doesn't undercut themselves for a reason. Duh. Too late for Intel and buddies.
    • 3D humor

      Being a long time netbook user I loved your mentioning of the hyped 3d that never seemed to make it. On my Aspire One (upgraded to 2GB RAM) I can run Ubuntu with Compiz giving me the handy cubed 6 sided desktop.
  • Other Factors

    I think some other factors besides the rise of tablets have figured into the dwindling netbook market. For one thing, prices went up on most netbooks to the point that they cost as much as a cheaper laptop, with better battery life but significantly less capability. I think there is some market left for the $250 or less netbook.

    Ultrabooks starting to come down in price is a bigger threat to the netbook market than tablets ever would be. It's true that some people can do all they want on a tablet. That fact reduces the size of the netbook market (and the size of the laptop market and the desktop market to varying degrees), but it doesn't eliminate the market altogether. There are still a lot of things that a netbook is better for than a tablet is.

    A tablet can't even temporarily replace my laptop. A netbook can be a reasonable replacement for a number of uses when I want something smaller and lighter than my desktop replacement class laptop (17 inch and fairly power hungry).
    • counter point

      Here is the counter argument. A "laptop" of a similar price isn't giving you the battery life, size and weight of a netbook style laptop. All the features that make the device a good mobile option can't be had at a similar price with different hardware. It makes no sense. Yeah, a $350 laptop that is 15-inch has the portability of what? A 1960's supercomputer? Anything with a lower priced processor with portability in design that's 12 inches and under really is a netbook.
      • More Like an Expansion

        I certainly don't disagree that a netbook is more portable than a regular laptop, not least of all because of battery life. However, I think that when netbooks went from portable and cheap, but not powerful to portable, but neither cheap nor powerful, they lost a big selling point compared to laptops that were more powerful, but not cheap and only semi-portable.

        I certainly agree with your general point, and I certainly don't mean to say that the netbook market will go away. In fact, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that there is a significant market for $300 or less netbooks rather than going so low as $250. It depends on at what price people generally start to hesitate rather than treating it almost as an impulse purchase.
  • My Experience

    I bought a Playbook (16gb) and the first thing that I bought for it was a bluetooth keyboard.
    Although I really like the Playbook, during a sober moment I realized that I had spent more on the Playbook/keyboard than my last Netbook, an Aspire 1. The netbook has much more expandability and harddisk and applications. I would never afford an iPad so forget that argument.
    Bottom line, I'm looking to get a newer netbook with a N570 or N2600 processor rather than the N270 in mine. I think that will do me just fine. And probably still cheaper than a tablet...

    I am in the Netbook market. I've got a EEEpc, a HP Mini10, and the Aspire. The size and features suit my work, on the road support of a large enterprise system. The desktop software runs on the Netbook fine. If it just get 3 months use out of it before losing or breaking it I'm good. Although I still have all 3 and they all work like brand new.
    I am the same person as someone in the UltraBook market but the price is not low enough to justify losing/breaking it. I'm dependent on network speed, not cpu speed.

    I'm an Acer customer three times over so I'm happy they are still pursuing the netbook market.