Netbooks dead? Yes, in the student market at least

Summary:Netbooks and students don't go together, and with IDC's predictions that netbooks have hit a sales growth wall, perhaps we should write off the netbook altogether?

The netbook is dead, according to my editor-in-chief Larry Dignan. I'm inclined to agree with him frankly; as Gartner and IDC project that netbooks will not sell as many as they have done before, or even ever.

Chris Dawson, education enthusiast, to some extent disagrees and sees the wide opportunity for younger users to easily get themselves into technology. Plus, on a strange level, netbooks are mini-laptops for smaller people - children in particular. Still, Chris hopes netbooks won't go away any time soon. Again, I'm inclined to agree but for the student market, there is not much place for netbooks.

I could walk into any lecture theater on campus and pick out from the 200 students in there around 50 of them are using laptops, and only 1 or 2 are using a netbook. Students don't see a benefit in getting a netbook, with the exception of the compact size and lighter weight.

Netbooks are smaller, thinner, more "lightweight" (in more ways than the obvious) laptops. The screens are tiny, the keyboard is - well, the same size - but there isn't much room for error, the memory capacity is low and there's nothing more than an on-board graphics and sound card. They're not meant to be fantastic, but should bridge the gap somewhat between a smartphone and a laptop.

But Steve Jobs says that's what the iPad will do. And though I hate to admit it, he has a point when he said, "...but netbooks aren't good at anything". Maybe battery life - I'll give you that one - but nothing else.

Instead, I see more and more students opting for the middle ground between a fully fledged laptop and a netbook - the 'in-between area' which hasn't been defined properly yet; not slate PC's and not necessarily touch-screen computers, but small and powerful laptops like the HP Touchsmart tx2 to throw in a random example.

It's small, it's light, it's powerful and it's flexible. It isn't the greatest student laptop in the world, but it surely won't be outweighed by the netbook in any case. But even taking the tx2 out of the equation, I'd prefer my BlackBerry to a netbook. At least you can fit it in your pocket...

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Laptops

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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