The launch of Windows 8 pretty much spells the end of the 10 inch netbook. Over the last year most major PC makers had stopped selling inexpensive mini-laptops with 10 inch screens, Intel Atom processors, and Windows 7 software, but Acer, HP, and Asus had continued.
Now HP is no longer selling 10 inch laptops through its website, Acer’s Aspire One page only shows 11.6 inch models, and the Asus Eee PC website is starting to look like a graveyard, with no new models designed to run Windows 8.
The move makes sense. Most older netbooks had 1024 x 600 pixel or lower resolution displays, while Windows 8 requires 1024 x 768 pixel or higher resolution screens. And PC makers tend to stop shipping computers to consumers with older versions of Windows once a new version is available.
Another way Microsoft played a role in killing the old idea of netbooks was to emphasize new touchscreen-friendly features in Windows 8. Many new Windows 8 computers feature touchscreens, which drives up the price.
Intel also played a role, by pushing its new Atom Clover Trail processors for tablets rather than laptops. In fact, those new 11.6 inch Acer Aspire One computers that the company is still calling netbooks don’t have Intel chips at all. Instead they use AMD’s low power C-series chips.
All told, there’s probably not much stopping PC makers from building new 10 inch mini-laptops with x86 processors, 1366 x 768 pixel displays, and Windows 8 software — but there’s also not a lot of incentive for them to do so at the moment. Prices for the new Windows 8 tablets, laptops, and convertibles that we’ve seen so far tend to be higher than prices for Windows 7 netbooks, and that means higher profit margins.
If consumers aren’t willing to spend that kind of money on new computers, I have no doubt we’ll see prices fall pretty quickly. It wasn’t all that long ago that most Android tablet makers were trying to charge $499 or more for their devices. Now some of the best Android tablets around cost less than $200.
We’ve also seen a few companies take unusual approaches to the netbook space. For instance, Ergo Electronics GoNote is a new 10 inch netbook with an ARM-based CPU, touchscreen display, and Android operating system. And budget consumer electronics company Coby seems to think there’s still a place for inexpensive netbooks.
I doubt we’ll see netbooks return to their former glory anytime soon.