There’s a long history of technology inflection points. Television eclipsed radio. Broadband services and cell phones cut into wireline phone subscriptions. Notebook sales overtook desktop sales. Netbook sales cut into notebook sales. So, is any surprise that the iPad and, most likely, near future tablet devices will cut into netbook sales?
The netbook revolution happened primiarly because of price. There have been small notebook computers for many years. But, they were generally more expensive and less powerful than conventional notebooks. More money for fewer features is not a good value. Netbooks, on the other hand, are less capable than full size notebooks but are priced far lower (often around half) of typical notebook prices. This is an acceptable tradeoff: Fewer featues at a far lower price.
Tablet devices have been available for at least a decade in the form of Microsoft’s Tablet PC. But, like the old subnotebooks, they offered less power than a notebook but generally cost far more. The iPad, on the other hand, is priced in between netbooks and notebooks, offers true instant-on (or resume from suspend for those of you who are purists), very fast task switching, and the iPhone’s large library of apps. This too appears to be an acceptable tradeoff for many people (like me).
I’m certainly not going to dump the netbooks I already have. I do need them now and then. And, in fact, I will probably buy another netbook or notebook before the end of this calendar year. Netbooks and notebooks are not going to disappear. They are simply going to be part of a broader spectrum of mobile devices that also includes smartphones and tablets.