Bye Bye Netbook Bye Bye
December 31, 2012 8:44 AM   Subscribe

2012: The year that netbooks Died. A five-year lifespan turned out to be all that netbooks got. Acer and Asus are stopping manufacture from 1 January 2013 - ending what once looked like the future of computing.
posted by adamvasco (197 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
End of an error. Been fixing those pieces of crap as best I can for neighbor kids. Local school required them. Parents had to finance them. Good riddance.
posted by hal9k at 8:54 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dang. My wife has an EEEpc from 2009 that still chugs along perfectly (the only issue is the power port - you have to hold the plug *just*right*). I borrow it on photography trips - perfect as a bridge between my card reader and an external drive for backup, plus a little light browsing.

(and I don't understand the nature photogs pulling out their 19" Macbooks after a long day shooting - if you have time to review your shots, you're not spending enough time behind the camera.)
posted by notsnot at 8:55 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Goddamnit. I moved my macpro to my office and my home computer strategy for the past few years has been to buy the cheapest netbook I can find and just use it till it breaks (not long). My current one kicked the bucket 2 weeks ago.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:56 AM on December 31, 2012


if you have time to review your shots, you're not spending enough time behind the camera.

Sort of like if you have time to de-bug your code, you're not spending enough time writing new code?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:57 AM on December 31, 2012 [40 favorites]


Seriously, computer industry, I can't be the only person who needs to move from place to place and also type things? Why do you keep making this so hard for me? Have you even tried typing on a touch screen?
posted by Dreadnought at 8:58 AM on December 31, 2012 [77 favorites]


Funny, I was just torn between a netbook/Chromebook and a Nexus 7, and choose the tablet. I love it dearly, but I'm probably going to get a keyboard for it someday, as I'll want to take notes and write stuff for school on the go soon, and SwiftKey doesn't cut it. But I get the feeling coding for school is right out.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:59 AM on December 31, 2012


.

/owner of the original 7" eeePC and a coupla others, all of which work

The category had a reason to come into being. Today's light flat Zenbooks et al wouldn't have existed without the design challenge the netbook posed, that of small form factor, price and ease of access.

if you have time to review your shots, you're not spending enough time behind the camera.)


If you can't make the time (routine) to download each night and go through them, sorting, sifting, seeing the early patterns and putting them away before the next day's shooting, then you won't know a) what you're seeing and doing and thus b) how to maximize your time on location.
posted by infini at 8:59 AM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


Interesting.

I'm writing this using an Asus 10" with a full-sized keyboard attached via USB. I got the thing in 2008 for about $300, added some RAM and it hasn't missed a beat since then, to include using it severe conditions in Kuwait and the UAE.

I have a iPad, too, though the Asus smokes it for doing anything of consequence. I've written all sorts of stuff, edited photos, etc., with this thing... and oh by the way, I actually have USB ports, an Ethernet port, a card slot, and XP works just fine for me.

It'll die at some point and I guess I could replace it with... a (relatively) cheap 13" laptop and sort out Windows 8 or spend a lot for an Apple (?).

Also, at the risk of stating the obvious, couldn't disagree more with, "Netbooks had a short but interesting life - going from the one-time saviour of the PC industry, to just another mispriced attempt to push some low-powered Intel chips and garner more money for Microsoft."
posted by ambient2 at 9:01 AM on December 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


Have you even tried typing on a touch screen?

Someday, someone will come up with an effective innovative way of "typing" for tablets and the like, and it'll start a revolution.
posted by drezdn at 9:02 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm writing this using an Asus 10" with a full-sized keyboard attached via USB.

Do you carry the keyboard around with you?
posted by griphus at 9:03 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Netbooks are between a rock and a hard place. They could never have good performance because Intel was always wary of cannibalizing their margins on chips. Atoms were always crippled. They could never go ARM either as both Intel and Microsoft pitched fits when they tried. More and more of a percentage of the price of a netbook was the wintel tax.

A lot of the explosion in cheap android tablets is the possibility of hardware manufacturers, whose margins have been ever shrinking, getting out from under the thumb of high margin monopoly suppliers.

Granted, Google seems to be driving the android market into the same low margin place, the better to sell their services.
posted by zabuni at 9:03 AM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


But I get the feeling coding for school is right out.
I know a few people who code on them by SSHing into remote machines and using a keyboard case. This works fairly well for Unix development, and even web development. But if your school requires an IDE like Visual Studio, this could be fairly difficult. Anybody know what Remote Desktop clients are like for tablets?
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:04 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, as someone who owns both an EEE and an iPad, typing on the iPad's screen is a goddamn breeze comparing to typing on a netbook keyboard that is sized for, I don't know, a goddamn lemur or something.
posted by griphus at 9:05 AM on December 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


Man, that's too bad. I have a 2009-ish era Eee PC that still works like a charm. It's got shit specs, sure, but all I use it for is typing and playing games from 1995. How else will I play Civ II on nine-hour flights?!
posted by sonmi at 9:06 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anybody know what Remote Desktop clients are like for tablets?

Definitely not at the point of being useful (in a non-trivial sense) yet. LogMeIn keeps the pointer centered on the screen and moves the display around it, and that is the best interface I've seen so far.
posted by griphus at 9:07 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do Chromebooks count as netbooks?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:07 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't this also have something to do with hybrid tablets and ultra books getting cheaper and cheaper and blurring the lines between categories? Sure, it's pricer than a $350 netbook but that lenovo yoga thing is an amazing little machine for $700-$900. Won't that sort of machine only get cheaper, in practical terms replacing the netbook category?
posted by Wretch729 at 9:09 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, but thanks to market forces and the wonderful phenomenon known as "race to the botton" for less than 80 bucks, you can get the world's crummiest laptop
posted by hellojed at 9:09 AM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


Grrrrr! Noooo! Bad news! I guess I'll have to buy a few to keep in reserve. In contrast to a Macbook, the Eee is so cheap I don't care if I lose it and so small it's easy to take everywhere. It's just big enough to do some basic web browsing and I've written a ton of code on it. I had expected to buy a new one every year or two as the old one broke or got lost, but it's just kept on ticking like it just don't care.

Yeah, the keyboard is small, but it didn't take me that long to get used to it.... and you know what it's better than? A GODDAMN TOUCHSCREEN. I do not want a tablet, and I especially don't want a tablet OS.

I guess I'll have to get a chromebook and install Ubuntu on it, but I really liked the adorably tiny form factor of the Eee pc, and I am sad that it is going away.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:10 AM on December 31, 2012 [16 favorites]


Perhaps estimates for Chromebooks were low because everyone was sold out two weeks before Christmas.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:10 AM on December 31, 2012


I guess I'll have to get a chromebook and install Ubuntu on it

This has been my strategy but I devised it right around the time everyone was sold out of the Samsung $249 Chromebook so I cannot as of yet report upon its efficacy.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:11 AM on December 31, 2012


The 11" MacBook Air is everything that a netbook should have been, and doing just fine.

...nature photogs pulling out their 19" Macbooks...

Apple's largest notebook is 15 inches, the 17-inch MacBook Pro was discontinued this past summer.
posted by furtive at 9:13 AM on December 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


Got a sony vaio netbook years ago and it still runs fantastically. I've taken that thing everywhere, loaded all sorts of crap on it and ran it as my primary computer for a year as well and I love it.
posted by dazed_one at 9:14 AM on December 31, 2012


"race to the botton"

First one wins a Barcelona chair and a lyrical yet inconclusive essay on wristwatches
posted by theodolite at 9:15 AM on December 31, 2012 [13 favorites]


The 11" MacBook Air is everything that a netbook should have been, and doing just fine.

...at only three times the price.
posted by goethean at 9:15 AM on December 31, 2012 [55 favorites]




Do you carry the keyboard around with you?


Nah. Got the tablet, an iPad2, if I feel like screwing around while I'm out. It feels pretty useless for doing anything of consequence, and I actually don't need to be connected (with apologies to elizardbits) AT ALL TIMES.

Life has this way of going on quite well without always being connected to THE INTERNET, thoughts oriented in that direction...........................
posted by ambient2 at 9:16 AM on December 31, 2012


.
posted by oulipian at 9:17 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do Chromebooks count as netbooks?

Pretty much, they're on the high end of what people would consider netbook screensize (see also: Macbook Air) and now they've sorted the price issues seem to be selling as fast as you can put them on shelves.
posted by Artw at 9:18 AM on December 31, 2012


The 11" MacBook Air is everything that a netbook should have been, and doing just fine.

Gotta disagree. My last two 11" Airs have been garbage. They heat up ridiculously fast with and the fan is super loud. Their are a ton of other issues, but the machine gets hot enough to burn your hand on. It's ridiculous and after 10 years with Apple, I'm considering switching back as the past 4 years or so their products are getting worse and worse.

The form factor on the 11" Air is awesome. However, I wouldn't recommend the computer to anyone.
posted by dobbs at 9:19 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


The netbook was introduced in a very different market, where small notebooks commanded a steep premium over their 14-15" brethren. Now you can get a pretty good small notebook (still 1366x768) for about twice the price of a netbook, and a really good one for $1000-1500 (Macbook Air, Asus Zen). The good keyboard, small size and acceptable screen that was offered in netbooks at a very affordable price is still a loss for us small-fingered folks, though.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:20 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn. Posting from my 2009 eeepc running #! Linux. It's astounding what I've put this thing through and it keeps chugging along.
posted by mannequito at 9:20 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a small-handed person, my cheap 10" eee has been my BFF through two Master's degrees (assuming it doesn't die before May). The amount I've written on it has probably exceeded the amount I've written on any one other device, per amount of time I've had it. It also fits inside those narrow hotel room safes. I will be sad when it dies and I have to get a tablet + keyboard.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:22 AM on December 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


Posting this from my iPad. Sorry for killing your crappy tiny laptops.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:22 AM on December 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


Chromebooks come close, but are a step backwards - the battery life isn't rated for quite as long as the 9 hrs the EEEpc is rated for. (Cue argument about battery life ratings...)
posted by fragmede at 9:23 AM on December 31, 2012


I confirm dobbs on the loudness of the 13" MBA, though it doesn't seem to get too hot for me (playing Civ 5). I just bought it to replace a 2010 11" HP Mini, mostly because the Mini's screen is really, really bad; you have to look at it at just the right angle, otherwise everything washes out; not as bad as the cheaper late-90s/early-oughts, but not really acceptable in this day and age.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:24 AM on December 31, 2012


There was a post a while ago that I can't for the life of me find now about something that projected an infrared keyboard (or something) onto whatever surface was in front of you. It was clearly the coolest thing that there could ever be but it also seemed to me like a decent solution to a lot of these issues. Of course I don't want to lug a full-sized keyboard around but I do want to be able to use one and although it would take some fidgeting and not necessarily be the pleasantest typing experience in terms of keyboard feedback and stuff it seems like it could work really well. I didn't dream this, did I? If I did I would like to make some money off of it. If not, I think someone should try to move it from novelty to practical solution.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:30 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Darn. I love my little blue Samsung netbook. It was just the ticket when my former employer took my work laptop back when I was laid off - affordable, transportable, perfectly adequate for doing job searches and sending out resumes. It fits easily in my purse. The battery life is a good six hours. As someone who does a lot of word processing, I find the small-but-bigger-than-most-other-netbooks keyboard perfectly adequate. Maybe I should quickly buy another for when this one dies, but after three years it shows no signs of doing that.
posted by caryatid at 9:31 AM on December 31, 2012


Bought a Gateway Netbook as my 3rd college laptop (1st - stolen, 2nd - hinge started failing, now a printing computer in the basement). It was kind of difficult, but I enjoyed the fact I could still run Windows 7, program in R, read docs for school, run Google Reader, check e-mail, install Ubuntu on another partition, run iTunes, etc. etc. etc.

I run a much more powerful ASUS these days (wanted the dual-core 64 Bit processing and 8 GB RAM that the computer for an internship ran). The netbook is now my mother's. Running good still.

Too bad the netbook is going away. Very productive machines that the iPad and other tablets have yet to really match unless you feel like bringing along the Bluetooth keyboard, and even then it's iffy.

...and they come with practically the same energy efficiency gains too. Netbook is a bit less efficient, but again, you get more work out of it. (This is I think the driving factor in pushing netbooks and tablets: trim the energy cost on the millions of computers being used and you get n*[conserved energy] in savings, n being the number of devices. That's a lot of watts, and it will take years to realize the gains as people like me bounce between laptops and tablets *sigh*).
posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:31 AM on December 31, 2012


Gotta disagree. My last two 11" Airs have been garbage. They heat up ridiculously fast with and the fan is super loud. Their are a ton of other issues, but the machine gets hot enough to burn your hand on.
My experience has been the exact opposite. I bought two of them the day they came out, and one more shortly after. They've been the best laptops I've ever used. They get a little warm, but no more than other laptops. I use mine daily for hours on end. So I suspect it's kind of a good batch vs bad batch thing.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:32 AM on December 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


This is an interesting and apropos post for me just now, as I just went out yesterday and bought a keyboard case for my iPad, which has basically become my main interface to the online world in recent history. I was musing last night on how much more likely I am to actually respond to an e-mail (or a metafilter thread post) now that I've gotten rid of the overhead and frustration of having to deal with the touch-screen keyboard. I can move from the iPad being a solely content consumption device to a content creation device.
posted by jferg at 9:33 AM on December 31, 2012


I never understood the animosity towards netbooks. We had two in our house. Dearly loved both. The Macbook Air wouldn't exist if not for the netbook. Tablets are a poor substitute for an actual (albeit crappy/underpowered) hobbit computer.

I loved you Netbook. RIP.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:34 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


My wife got me an insanely pretty Samsung 13" at Christmas, so the HP Mini is getting retired. It has served me well.

/pipes

If it wasn't the Samsung it probably would have been replaced by the Chromebook, the Air, or something with the new transformable form factors. I did look at netbooks, but nothing much there appealed - maybe if anyone other than Google was pushing the small SSD based computer with a lightweight operating system concept, but really once people started putting XP and the necessary large HHDs on them netbooks stopped being about that.
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on December 31, 2012


I come to bury the Netbook, not to praise it.
posted by mazola at 9:36 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never understood the animosity towards netbooks.

Silly Jobs worshiping nonsense, mostly, I'd expect.
posted by Artw at 9:36 AM on December 31, 2012 [18 favorites]


It's part marketing buzzwords, part competition from Chromebooks (e.g. netbooks with ChromeOS) and part tablet.

Last week I nearly bought a brand new 7" Windows 8 machine with a touchscreen which I would have called a netbook, regardless of whatever it's called now.

Instead I bought a plainer but faster and cheaper 15.6" laptop. But my wife has our Eee all to herself now, for research and writing.
posted by Foosnark at 9:38 AM on December 31, 2012


I always thought a netbook would be the ideal platform for a smartphone and was biding my time until someone made one. (I'm pretty old and never minded using 15 pound, corded telephones.)
posted by klarck at 9:39 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


A netbook is exactly what I need right now. Hate yours? I'll give it a loving home.

Will this drive the price up or down? I've been watching a few on ebay.
posted by Malice at 9:41 AM on December 31, 2012


I was using a Samsung N-series netbook for about 4 years as my primary mobile computer. I really liked it. About 5 hours of battery life without charge, slightly larger than normal screen and keyboard for a netbook, upgraded the RAM by a meg and had snappy performance, took about 30 seconds for a cold boot. It got me through a master's program, and is still kicking. I think I'm going to put Mint on it at some point.

Compare that to the unexceptional off-the-rack HP that I'm using right now, and I have to say it's something of a lateral shift. I got it slightly used for 300 bucks (so pretty much Netbook price), and the screen and keyboard are larger, but it doesn't do much more than my Samsung did and gets far worse battery life. I still have my desktop rig for games and stuff I need actual computing power for.

What I really want is something like the Samsung Note (except not terrible, as I've heard it is), where I have a decent sized tablet that I can use a stylus on, pop on a keyboard if need be, and read PDFs comfortably off of for when I'm doing research. I'm not sure that such a thing exists yet.
posted by codacorolla at 9:44 AM on December 31, 2012


What are you guys doing with your MacBook Airs? I have to press my ear to the body (late 2012 13", 8GB/512GB/2GHz i7) to hear anything at all. And I'm doing some fairly serious work on this! (Although ok, I'm not playing video games.)

It is so much quieter than my last MacBook, much faster to wake/sleep (yay SSD), and shedding a couple of pounds seems to make a big difference in luggability. I should just name it "Preciousss" and be done with it...

I don't see how Netbooks survived as long as they did against this sort of assault, even with an opening bid of $999.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:44 AM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is really too bad. I bought an Acer Aspire One last year for about $350 and absolutely love it. I'm a developer, it runs Eclipse quite well enough for my open source work, and I take it on all my trips for coding, blogging, and any kind of serious writing. I have owned an iPad and now have a Nexus 7 and while I enjoy the Nexus, it's mostly for early morning email checking before I get out of bed. Every time I have to write serious email or chat on it I go absolutely insane after about 15 minutes and have to switch to a laptop.

I don't want to spend $700 on a machine just to get a keyboard and a full operating system. I want something that allows me to work without trying to be a full desktop replacement. Definitely a loss to possible productivity options.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:47 AM on December 31, 2012


see you all in five years on the metafilter-channel of GoogAOLVerizon on my g-phomebook brought to you by ComAmazoncast...

(it's all about the vertical integration into content conglomerates to make up for commoditization of the hardware... except everything will look like AOL rather than Apple because the luxury market to more subjet to monopoly economics and apple has the monopoly)
posted by ennui.bz at 9:49 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey look, it's a big-ass phone coming to eat my raggedy old Asus EEE PC!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have a 2012 11" Macbook Air, and I find myself using the Samsung Chromebook more than the Mac. Sure, it's not as "solid", but it does everything I need a machine of that size to do, and if it gets broken/stolen/etc, it's just another $250 and a re-sync.
posted by mrbill at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2012


Mrs. Pterodactyl: Probably this - Laser Keyboard "Celluon Magic Cube"
posted by HermitDog at 9:51 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hesitate to type this, because I'm really not a computer industry person, and I know a lot of technical types hang out here. But this is an episode from my life which shaped my views of these kinds of things.

Long Preamble Designed to Head Off 'You Don't Know What You're Talking About' Comments

I'm an academic, and some of the other academics I know are engineers. Just under a decade ago, some of my engineer friends entered a competition to design The Technology of the Future. What they came up with was basically the netbook. They asked me to help them design the thing because, due to a disability, I pretty much depend on computers to live my life, which means I was always carrying small portable computers about with me (eternal thanks to a mefite who once hooked me up with a small portable computer when I was down on my luck and needed it to get by; I still have it in an honoured place behind my desk).

The device they came up with was amazing: small, hackable, very cheap, very sturdy. These people were good engineers, working at one of the top engineering schools in the world. They took all of my comments and integrated them into the design wonderfully: everything was just where you needed it to be to flip it open and start computing. It was even stylish in a punky kind of way: unlike apple products, the case was designed to look better with a few dings and scratches (more character), and every part was user-replaceable. Remember, these were days when all the cool kids were putting lots of stickers on their laptop lids, so it was au courant.

The Bit Wherein I Get to the Point

What struck me about the reaction to this device was not so much that it was summarily rejected; it was the grounds upon which it was rejected. The Industry Leaders and Visionaries who judged the competition had this way of thinking about technology that was just completely alien to me.

Here are the main arguments levelled against my friends and their beautiful computer:

1. Your plan to conduct market research about what users need and want is flawed. The computer industry has no need to conduct market research, as we are visionaries, who lead the way into tomorrow, and we know what users need better than they do themselves. (implied corollary: if you do not know these things, then you are not such a visionary and have no place here)

2. One of the things we know is that people do not want to carry computers around with them. People have offices for work, and living rooms for play, and no user wants to lug a computer from place to place.

3. The only market category for highly portable computers is travelling salesmen. They are already well served by Symbian, and thus the highly portable computer market is saturated.

4. The idea of building optional telephone connectivity into your device is ludicrous. People want mobile phones to be as small as possible. Your device is enormous by comparison.

5. Notwithstanding the popularity of mobile phones, people don't want to be reached everywhere they go. Imagine having your email follow you! A nightmare!

In conclusion: the market for a notebook-like device smaller than a notebook is non-existent and people will never buy your computer.

Conclusion

This experience, as well as some others around the time, has left me with a deep distrust of the computer market and how it was run. Every time I read an article saying 'people use computers like this', and it's a description that flies in the face of everybody I know and how they use their computers, my first thought is not 'oh, the market research must show that all my friends are tiny minority'. No, my first thought is to remember those people telling my friends that market research is for chumps, that they knew how people used computers; they didn't need to be told. My first thought is that the Leaders and Visionaries may not, in fact, be so visionary as they believe themselves to be.
posted by Dreadnought at 9:51 AM on December 31, 2012 [89 favorites]


Yes! Thank you! It was that or something very much like it. Not only is it FUCKING AWESOME but I think it solves some of these problems pretty neatly.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:53 AM on December 31, 2012


(That was directed at HermitDog)
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:53 AM on December 31, 2012


I think that Magic Cube is a neat gimmick that has potential, but it doesn't really do anything that a decent mobile bluetooth keyboard does 10 times better, other than fit in your pocket instead of a sleeve.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:56 AM on December 31, 2012


Couldn't deal with the 600 pixel vertical resolution when I used one. Add a couple of word processor or IDE toolbars on top and you get about 10 lines of text visible at a time. Can't believe laptop manufacturers continue to throw these crappy screens at us.
posted by scose at 9:58 AM on December 31, 2012


My first portable computer was a Sylvania G Meso that I bought in . . . 2008? Wrote my first book on the tiny keyboard. Ran out and bought it after I played with a friend's EEE. I ended up giving it to my mother when I bought a full sized laptop and it still works pretty perfectly. Had reason to fiddle with it recently and it filled me with contradictory feels: first, that I can't believe I was ever able to type on the teeny tiny keyboard, and second, that it is STILL so tiny and adorable, just the kind of gadget that still fills me with want.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:01 AM on December 31, 2012


I'm on a netbook right now and I absolutely love it. I don't get people's netbook complaints.

The devices that are being offered up as the successors to netbooks can't compete on two vital points: Price and having a keyboard. I got my netbook for $250- this is something an iPad, an ultrabook, or a Macbook Air couldn't compete with.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:04 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seriously, computer industry, I can't be the only person who needs to move from place to place and also type things? Why do you keep making this so hard for me? Have you even tried typing on a touch screen?

This is why my plan is to go iPad with one of those cover/bluetooth keyboard combos. Though I haven't tried it yet, it seems to be the best of both worlds (along with the iMac for at home).
posted by sourwookie at 10:04 AM on December 31, 2012


Metafilter: I don't know, a goddamn lemur or something.
posted by jquinby at 10:04 AM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


1. Your plan to conduct market research about what users need and want is flawed. The computer industry has no need to conduct market research, as we are visionaries, who lead the way into tomorrow, and we know what users need better than they do themselves. (implied corollary: if you do not know these things, then you are not such a visionary and have no place here)

This was the mindset of the bleeding-edge tech company I worked for in the late 80s that managed to saturate their market within five years of their inception and go belly-up shortly thereafter. It was fun while it lasted, though.
posted by caryatid at 10:05 AM on December 31, 2012


I caveat this message with a note that I probably do not really get netbooks, and neither am I their target market or whatever.

But even though I probably would not buy one for myself, I think the major problem with netbooks is that most of them failed to realize the promise of an inexpensive, yet useful portable device. I mean, when I think of the netbooks that I've seen from family or friends or whatever, I see extremely crappy devices that I can predict I will be called upon to fix or replace in the near future.

I think the chromebooks, and especially the $250 Samsung one, are realizing the vision of having accessible, inexpensive, yet decent quality products. I was very glad to get one for my aunt this Christmas season, and very fortunate that I could find one and get it all on time for Christmas too. I mean, this thing looks good. Way better than its 250 price would suggest.
posted by subversiveasset at 10:05 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


it doesn't really do anything that a decent mobile bluetooth keyboard does 10 times better, other than fit in your pocket instead of a sleeve.

That feels like a really big difference to me, though, especially if it could be built in. If you could actually carry around a full-sized keyboard as part of your tablet I think that'd be awesome and I might even consider buying one.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:06 AM on December 31, 2012


I use an iPad like crazy for productivity (I'm a mathematics prof). I use apps to access Dropbox in order to edit LaTeX files and spreadsheets for grading. I run a Sage server (for mathematical computing) on my home computer and access it from the iPad daily for both my own research and teaching demos. I use VNC and my desktop when I absolutely need Flash for something (like online homework management), or the Puffin browser on the iPad. The tablet is a great form factor for keeping my notes for class, and having an 'undo' button is a Godsend for this Graph Theorist. I actually really like the touch keyboard but for long typing sessions I use a small Bluetooth keyboard. Sure, I like having a full-size laptop sometimes but there's only one thing I need it for. I bring the laptop to the office whenever I know I'll need to print something. I have no idea why the iPad can't print like other computers can, and it drives me batty.
posted by monkeymadness at 10:06 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've got an Acer Aspire One D270 that I had to buy to replace a first gen Aspire One that finally died on me. As far as portability? I am (in)famous for toting my about everywhere with me. I wish the battery life was better (Or that I could have reused the 6 cell I bought for the older model), but, otherwise, I am happyish enough. Just frustrated I can't get the Windows 8 upgrade I bought for it to install. And, yes, before you ask, there is currently a Linux on it, and there has been more than one on the current box and the previous one too.
posted by Samizdata at 10:08 AM on December 31, 2012


The netbook concept has been around a lot longer than 5 years. I remember owning a Windows CE (compact edition) one back in the late 90's. There was also the hand-held surge of the late 90's and early 2000's where you'd see hybrid handhelds like Casio's Cassiopiea A11 merge to a form factor in favor of tablet-ish handhelds like the Cassiopiea E105. HP, Dell, and other manufacturers pretty much followed suit. Nowadays, the stand-alone handheld market is for the most part, dead, due to convergence with cell-phones.

Connectivity could be another factor. I think certain Chromebooks, while technically netbooks, are a different story due to the wireless bundle on the pricier models. The main draw for many there is the bundled 3g internet. (much like the kind that's bundled with Kindles, but limited to 100MB per month before surcharge for 2 years).

That particular Chromebook is ideal for those that need the internet for e-mail and limited use, but don't want to pay hefty broadband charges (ie. perfect economical gift for keeping grandparents in touch..for well, atleast 2 years) If you don't go over the 100mb limit, you're basically avoiding $60-90 worth of wirless charges per month which adds up to $1400 - $2100 over the course of a contract...enough to buy several netbooks...

But outside of that, when it comes down to netbooks vs. tablets, tablets are currently winning as they offer the same features in a more convenient form factor. They're not more convenient for everyone...but enough to cause manufacturers to take the same steps they did with handhelds over a decade ago.
posted by samsara at 10:08 AM on December 31, 2012


I am hoping to score a used netbook on the cheap soon to power my smaller-footprint MAME cabinet. My old MAME cabinet was built into an actual arcade housing (you have no idea how much dining room this eats up), powered by my 1999 home built tower and a 23" CRT (about 60 lbs). Girlfriend said it had to go. I'm hoping a smaller netbook-powered unit will be more livable.
posted by sourwookie at 10:08 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


An iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard case works great and costs almost as much as a reasonably-spec'ed netbook (one that has the horsepower to run XP without delays between key presses, for example), while having the same form factor. The better technology won because it provides a better deal to users, at the same price.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:12 AM on December 31, 2012


Mrs. Pterodactyl: Along the lines of something like this?
posted by sourwookie at 10:12 AM on December 31, 2012


I love tiny computers. I used a 10" Eeepc as my primary computer for 3 years - the better part of college and all of my MA. I never had any trouble typing on it, though I have small hands. I carried it around in my school bag nearly every day - no heavier than a textbook - and nearly 8 hours of battery life meant no carrying around a cable. And being cheap as chips meant I didn't have to worry too much about losing or damaging it. Absolutely ideal for a student lifestyle.

I've since upgraded to a 12.5" slightly more powerful laptop. Still portable, still cheap (though about twice the price of the Eee), but less battery life and not quite as easy to toss in my bag all the time.
posted by Gordafarin at 10:13 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Pterodactyl: Along the lines of something like this?

Interesting! Maybe; I'm very attached to actual keyboards. I type pretty fast and I don't do well with typing on screens (when I got a smartphone I got one with a slide out keyboard because even a little physical one is better for me). I just don't feel like I can use anything really properly without what feels to me like an actual keyboard of some sort. This might make me a backwards Luddite but I suspect I'm not the only one.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:16 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


tablets are currently winning as they offer the same features in a more convenient form factor.

No, they don't. You can't type. You can't throw windows around.

An iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard case works great and costs almost as much as a reasonably-spec'ed netbook

I find iPads to be overpriced and underequipped for people who need to type. My $250 netbook has a built-in keyboard and 500GB of storage.

Also, iPads with bluetooth cases don't stand up on your lap. I have the same gripe with the Surface.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:16 AM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: "An iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard case works great and costs almost as much as a reasonably-spec'ed netbook (one that has the horsepower to run XP without delays between key presses, for example), while having the same form factor. The better technology won because it provides a better deal to users, at the same price."

$250 then? I would love to see a case and iPad for that price. Of course, had I see one for that price, I would probably own it to replace the Acer Aspire One I tote.
posted by Samizdata at 10:16 AM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think I'm going shopping tomorrow for a 10" Asus EEE PC (current one's keyboard is suffering from having coffee sneezed on to it), just because.
posted by infini at 10:17 AM on December 31, 2012


Someday, someone will come up with an effective innovative way of "typing" for tablets and the like, and it'll start a revolution.

My insane prediction: Ghost in the Shell style unfolding robot meta-fingers.

Our Digital Future!
posted by byanyothername at 10:21 AM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


What struck me about the reaction to this device was not so much that it was summarily rejected; it was the grounds upon which it was rejected. The Industry Leaders and Visionaries who judged the competition had this way of thinking about technology that was just completely alien to me.
posted by infini at 10:22 AM on December 31, 2012


I also love cheap, tiny computers, but really disliked netbooks, perhaps because my hands are too large to type on them. I was able to fill that hole in my life with used 12" thinkpads from eBay - cheap, plentiful, indestructible, have nipple pointers, and has my favorite keyboard ever to be on a laptop. Check into it if you need a travel or car machine.
posted by thedaniel at 10:23 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem with the Netbook is that it was designed as a low-cost-of-entry everyday computing device. The manufacturers brought them to market expecting their users to web-surf and do email on the thing, and maybe some schoolwork for the academic market.

What happened is that the tablet and the smartphone took away the "casual user" market completely - people use their iPhones and Nexus 7's to surf the web, do online shopping, watch videos, play casual games, tweet, etc. So the economy of scale that allowed the netbook to come into being has largely vanished.

Meanwhile, technology marches on, and you can get 15" notebooks for near-netbook money, right from Walmart or BJ's. These are the "real computers" of most people nowadays - what they use to upload photos to facebook or to type out their homework on.

This undoubtedly sucks for writers and coders who enjoyed the mini-notebook form factor that cost only pocket change, but the market isn't big enough to keep the devices profitable. Without people buying them by the millions, they lose money rather than make it.

Mini-notebooks will stick around, and they will have SSD's... the netbook was and is a good design... but they'll be $500-$1000 "ultrabooks" now that the mass-market devices belong to Android and Apple.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:23 AM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I had the first Asus EEE Pc when I was in college. I felt so cool at the time, it was the first computer I ever bought with my own money. It fit in my purse and I brought it everywhere. It was terrible in many ways, but it had a long eventful life and taught me a lot. First it taught me about Linux, which I had never used seriously before. It came with a mediocre distro, I think of Xandros. Not being particularly satisfied with that, I tried out other distros, learning much about Linux and using the command line in the process. Now I work with Linux every day and still use the thing I learned. Of course you could argue it would have been nice to spend as much time using that computer as I did administering the OS, which is probably why I eventually abandoned Linux as a desktop.

That EEEpc became my main computer when I studied abroad. It certainly wasn't perfect, but it went all around Europe with me and then back to the US, where it remained my main machine until I got a decent job. I think I eventually installed Ubuntu on it and gave it to a neighborhood kid. I like to think it's still out there teaching kids about Linux.
posted by melissam at 10:24 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one that feels a big difference between $250-$300 and what an iPad or fancy laptop costs?

My netbook isn't flashy, but it works great for websurfing and typing and it's been (knock wood) sturdy for the last 4 years. I know it won't last forever and I'm hoping I won't have to shell out big bucks to replace it when the time comes.
posted by pointystick at 10:25 AM on December 31, 2012 [14 favorites]


An iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard case works great and costs almost as much as a reasonably-spec'ed netbook

That setup will cost you at least twice as much as the netbook, which is about par for the course for transformables.
posted by Artw at 10:26 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


The devices that are being offered up as the successors to netbooks can't compete on two vital points: Price and having a keyboard. I got my netbook for $250- this is something an iPad, an ultrabook, or a Macbook Air couldn't compete with.

Yes but it's something the lowest end 13" and 15" notebooks are getting down to. You can already buy 13" notebooks down at $250 by shopping the sales well. Dell will sell you a 15" laptop right now for $400 with an i3. Not some shitty cheapass AMD A6 series. Not Atom. Intel Core i3.

Why would you buy a tiny, underpowered piece of garbage when the delta is so small?
posted by Talez at 10:26 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


byanyothername: "Someday, someone will come up with an effective innovative way of "typing" for tablets and the like, and it'll start a revolution.

My insane prediction: Ghost in the Shell style unfolding robot meta-fingers.

Our Digital Future!
"

I can only wish.

And it would make me SOOOOO popular with the lovers...

I don't have in my life...

sigh
posted by Samizdata at 10:26 AM on December 31, 2012


Dreadnought: "Seriously, computer industry, I can't be the only person who needs to move from place to place and also type things? Why do you keep making this so hard for me? Have you even tried typing on a touch screen?"

You should try a Microsoft Surface.

The touch cover is vastly better for typing than any touchscreen that I've used, and the type cover is easily better than any Netbook keyboard that I've seen. I'm not sure I'd want to write a novel on it, but it's the only tablet input device I've seen where I think I could. Microsoft overengineered the hell out of the Surface's input surfaces (ha!), and it really shows.

I was really impressed by the Surface and WinRT when I saw them. I'm still unconvinced that Windows 8 is a step in the right direction for the world of "serious computing," but it's absolutely a step in the right direction for tablets -- the Surface is the first tablet that I could envision using to do serious work.
posted by schmod at 10:29 AM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


Netbooks didn't die.

They lost their keyboards, and stopped running Windows XP.
posted by schmod at 10:29 AM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is part of the mindless number 1ism that is seriously retarding consumer markets. Products that could be perfectly viable in their niche are dumped because everyone is chasing stock market mindshare rather than selling products and we all know investors have very limited mental capacity that can only hold 1 company per market. It's like a year round version of the UKs #1 Christmas record mania.
posted by srboisvert at 10:32 AM on December 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


I do not understand the drive toward smaller and smaller devices. I've got a 15 inch screen and it feels tiny. I don't get why you'd want less space to work with.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:32 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


You should try a Microsoft Surface.

If it was about $100 cheaper they'd have a KILLER product there. Definatly the best keyboard experience of all the transformables.
posted by Artw at 10:32 AM on December 31, 2012


In terms of tablet-interface, I've always kinda wanted to see chorded-keyboards-in-gloves. So that way you could just have the screen up, and then do well, basically what'd be gestures, I suppose, to type. The gloves'd just send the info to the tablet and then you'd get text! Presumably there'd be something where if a finger was on the touchscreen, it would override the keyboard-function, so you don't have to worry about "typing" while, I dunno, playing Angry Birds or whatever.

Of course, then too, it'd be cool to combine that with, say, the Google Glasses thing they're coming out with at some point, and perhaps in-ear speakers that are also wired with mics to pick up the outside world where you can choose a proper sound balance between outside and inside, and depending, perhaps a battery pack in a pocket or backpack... of course, that set up would need a snazzy name... maybe something like "gargoyle"?
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 10:34 AM on December 31, 2012


They lost their keyboards, and stopped running Windows XP.

I think you may have put your finger on the cause of a lot of the netbook hate: XP is antiquated, the target for too much malware and badly suited for netbooks (or anything, in 2012) - someone running Ubuntu or Win7 is going to be having a radicaly different experience.
posted by Artw at 10:36 AM on December 31, 2012


hmmfff....I was all ready to spit on the netbook grave when I saw this thread....now I am having some serious second thoughts. Thanks for the great insights all.
posted by lampshade at 10:40 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's too small of a niche, but netbooks were awesome as ultra-portable general purpose computers* that were cheap enough ($250!) that it was no big deal if one got broken/stolen. I have an old HP netbook that I use for traveling, and it's just perfect, and none of the replacements mentioned work as well. I could replace it with a Macbook Air, but $999 is a lot to leave laying around. I could replace it with an iPad, but $400 > $250, plus I'd have to hunt around for new apps to do all the random tasks I do**, assuming those apps even exist.

* not that tablets aren't general purpose in the formal sense
** transfering trackpoints from my weird but nearly perfect Taiwanese GPS logger and photos from my camera, geotagging photos, basic photo editing, running through foreign language phrasebook flashcards (the same one I use on my desktop), etc.

posted by cosmic.osmo at 10:40 AM on December 31, 2012


I think what it comes down to in the Netbook/Tablet/Laptop debate is:

Inexpensive
Usable
Portable

Pick any two.

I love my iPad for surfing the web & reading, but g*d I hate typing on it. Not interested in a Netbook because of the hardware specs -- too low-powered. Can't afford a Macbook Air, so I continue to lug a 15" 2007 MBP around, and it's getting heavy.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:41 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well humph. My Acer Aspire has been my faithful companion for three years now - small enough to pop into my baggage without any difficulty, but with a keyboard that's big enough for my gigantic hands to type on. Sturdy, too. It's been the perfect solution for the vast majority of my computer needs.
posted by PussKillian at 10:42 AM on December 31, 2012


No, they don't. You can't type. You can't throw windows around.

I meant for the light work/multimedia/internet capabilities most netbooks were being purchased.
You can type on a tablet with a bluetooth keyboard (optional mouse touchpad) and can make it feel like a netbook with the right kind of case. That's where people are finding value in going for the tablet form factor with added touch features rather than being locked in with a single purpose clamshell netbook for not too much of a price difference.

As far as Windows, you're right that it's not currently convenient on tablets as slates have been a rarity (exoPC and the like) and clunky with Windows 7 and below. We'll have to wait and see what happens with Windows 8 Pro over the next few months, it's too early to tell if the Pro version will be a success as the hardware is going to start off much pricier. But again, anything that can run x86 Windows is either emulating an x86 processor or has one installed. Not many tablets are sporting x86 processors compared to netbooks, but again that's not really a limiting factor for the majority of consumers looking for an easy to use portable internet/multimedia device. If these more expensive pro slates hit off well, it could cause a shrinking market for Android and iOS if the price comes down enough. Who knows?

My original point though is convergence is a platform creator as well as changer (much like smartphones have created a new kind of phone while the stand-alone handheld has all but disappeared). If Asus was better at marketing, things like the Padfone and Padfone 2 (with its keyboard dock arriving shortly) would make an absolute killing in today's market....especially if they realized the untapped market they could have with an Android phone that also runs Canonical. (I can only dream..this would be the perfect gadget...especially if the phone's formfactor stayed compatible with tablet dock)

For Windows XP, you're looking at April 8th, 2014 for when support officially ceases on any platform. It had a long run, but will become dangerous online without further patches.
posted by samsara at 10:45 AM on December 31, 2012


The blame for the failure of Netbooks, I think, can be placed entirely on Atom. It sits in exactly the wrong spot in the price/performance/watt curve. Too power-hungry compared to its ARM counterparts, and too slow compared to its ULV Core cousins.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:50 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mars Saxman: "I guess I'll have to get a chromebook and install Ubuntu on it..."

This comment prompted me to search and find this, in case anyone else is interested. I'm moving from laptop to desktop as my primary computer, and have been thinking I still need something small and cheap for writing on the go. Sounds like this might fit the bill.
posted by brundlefly at 10:52 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have no idea why the iPad can't print like other computers can, and it drives me batty.

Fundamentally, because Apple got the design of the iPad wrong.

Apple conceived as iPads as accessories to computers. It would sync to your main computer, one would "load" it from your main computer. It was a satellite device. One does not need to print from a satellite device like a tablet, any more than one would want to print from an iPhone or an Apple TV.

But people keep wanting to use tablets not in addition to their computer, but as their computer. Apple has come some way to fixing their mistake, but it still shows up in all sorts of ways, lack of native printing being one of them. Even worse, in my view is the hash they made of handling data. You should not have to use a third-party workaround like Dropbox to manage your files, but that's become the de facto API for the iPad file system because Apple didn't think iPad users should have one.

iOs has a number of sucky limitations like that that really hold it back from being a first class experience as a general-purpose computer. Android, to be fair, is almost (but not quite) as bad. With the introduction of Windows 8/RT, it will be interesting to see where things go in the next few years. iOs (and Android) may be as transitory on tablets as the Apple ][ os was for PCs, a decent first try, but replaced by something revolutionary that really works for tablets as computers from the ground up.
posted by bonehead at 10:56 AM on December 31, 2012 [12 favorites]


What? I don't know where this "iPad can't print" meme got started but Airprint has been around since iOS 4.2 and hundreds of models of printers and MFDs now support it.
posted by Talez at 11:00 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one that feels a big difference between $250-$300 and what an iPad or fancy laptop costs?

7" Android tablets from no-name mid-tier manufacturers (what Asus and Acer were before the success of the netbook propelled them into the upper echelons) routinely dip below the $100 mark. No, they won't have the battery life, build quality or software integration of an iPad Mini or Nexus 7, but they're plenty good enough for those on a budget. With a $20 bluetooth keyboard from Amazon, you're looking at something half the price of a netbook that will get a lot more everyday use.

And if you're still hung up on the netbook form factor... they're selling Android-based netbooks for $80, with laptop bag and mouse.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:04 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chipping in as another person who loves typing on an iPad – this comment comes courtesy of that, as a matter of fact. I don't know, I don't seem to have a problem typing at exactly my laptop or desktop typing speed despite the touch screen. Possibly I am a mutant. But keyboard aside, the iPad is my dream computer, iPad games are becoming increasingly imaginative to the point where I still haven't touched some of my games from the last Humble Indie Bundle, and it is a productivity powerhose due to how quickly I can fire up exactly the application I need to do whichever precise thing I feel ought to get done next. It also has turned me into a much more avid reader. Love affair all around.

There're only a few things I can't do well on a tablet yet and they're annoying as hell. I don't know how to unzip files, I can't run torrents, and I can't do web design as smoothly as I can with Coda. The web design is the real killer: once I can design and code production-ready sites I can use my iPad as a work device and pretty much turn my laptop into a remotely accessible file hub. In any event I'm astonished at how far the iPad has evolved in just two and a half years.

My feelings about netbooks are conflicted. On the one hand, I am a firm believer that the price you pay for an Apple product is utterly worth it. Between GarageBand, Figure, Aweditorium, Band of the Day, Flipboard, Paprika, ComicGlass, and iBooks, the price I paid for the initial device was almost immediately returned to me with the utility of free or cheap apps that perform brilliantly and let me do things I couldn't do nearly as well on a laptop. I get shit done that I couldn't do without a device this high quality, and the fact that it encourages app developers to strain for that level of quality too means that the best consumer-level products available today are almost exclusively iPad apps. And that satisfies the hell out of me, because there are next to no other consumer products that I feel reward me for my purchase as much. My gaming consoles suck, my TV is a pain in the ass, yadda yadda. About the only other things that satisfy me this much are my Jetz Scrubz sponge and my almond thing of Dr. Bronner's soap, both of which I regard as similarly miraculous products.

So I like watching netbooks crash and burn at some level, simply for the vitriol with which netbook developers and consumers tend to shoot my way for using Apple products. I had a guy at my last workplace who just could not. stop. being a dick about my MacBook. Just booting it up would earn me a tirade from this dude who made it clear he saw me as a lesser individual for buying an Apple machine. He wasn't even a hardcore nerd, the dude used his computer for Excel and fucking Facebook, but he had this clear opinion that people who spent money on computers were fools. Period. So the failure of competitors who pushed the line that Apple is just a stingy bastard company and no computer should cost more than $200 kind of satisfies me. But I don't like that.

I don't like it because there should be low-end computers that don't feel miserable to use. Cheaper specs but honest, decent design, build to do less intense computer tasks reasonably well... this should not feel like such an impossible goal. People don't need ultrasleek, ultracool, ultrafast machines, they just need something that'll do the work they need done and not feel like shit while doing it. But you either get expensive machines that are still less reliable than they should be for the price you're paying, or you get blatantly shitty machines with terrible keyboards and awful screens. There's no good option and it sucks that there isn't.

So I think that it's good that netbooks failed so quickly and obviously. Netbooks were shit. That doesn't mean they weren't the best option available for some people – I totally get while they were popular – but it's sad that computers are so shitty that netbooks could be seen as a viable option. I hope that the computer industry gets their act together and figures out how to create a legitimately "good enough" machine that people who don't need the Apple premium can find something satisfying that suits their needs. It's not the Surface (god, what a wretched machine), and I haven't played with Chromebooks but the web-only thing still seems suspect. There's got to be another alternative, beyond pairing cruddy devices with loud, obnoxious marketing.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry if this was mentioned upthread, but somebody on Pinterest posted a link to a hologram keyboard that would like appear on whatever surface you wanted and I mean DUDE I want one of those.

What I have now is a keyboard with an ipad and it is my best friend, my father, my husband, and my child.
posted by angrycat at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2012


Am I the only one that feels a big difference between $250-$300 and what an iPad or fancy laptop costs?

A refurbed iPad 2 with no 3G and 16GB of space usually hovers around $400 which, if you'd actually be satisfied with the iPad over the netbook, is worth the extra hundred. If you don't actually want an iPad, then it is a moot point, of course.
posted by griphus at 11:08 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apple conceived as iPads as accessories to computers. It would sync to your main computer, one would "load" it from your main computer. It was a satellite device.

Um, that is completely wrong. From the day it was debuted the iPad was positioned as an alternative to a computer, one that was more flexible than a laptop and capable of more potent interfaces. Initially you had to sync it to your computer because Apple hadn't worked out how best to make the iPad run standalone – it wasn't feasible until they had iCloud to remotely store user data and account information – but they were obviously positioning the iPad as a computer, not an accessory.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:09 AM on December 31, 2012


During his keynote address, in January 2010, Jobs asked: "The question has arisen; is there room for something in the middle?", meaning between a full laptop/desktop and an iPhone. It's clear to me that he did not conceive of the iPad as a full computing experience, but largely as one for media consumption. The apps at launch were about video, books and music, mobile access to the web, messaging and email. It wasn't a replacement for a Macbook air, it was a lighter alternative to use on the couch, as he demonstrated quite literally, during its introduction.
posted by bonehead at 11:17 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Intel might not want to cannibalize their market by making netbook chips, but if they want to protect themselves from ARM they're going to have to start shipping battery-sipping x86 chips that can run powerful smartphones, pronto. It just so happens that those chips could probably work just fine in a dirt-cheap netbook.


bonehead: "Apple has come some way to fixing their mistake, but it still shows up in all sorts of ways, lack of native printing being one of them. "

Eh, that's like saying "these new 'automobile' things aren't very good. They lack the ability to hook up a horse team when you don't feel like running the engine." (IMHO) the whole idea of the tablet is that you don't need to print anymore. Physical media going the way of the Dodo bird and all that. See also: no optical drives in the latest hardware.
posted by mullingitover at 11:18 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


.

I had an original EeePC; a total piece of crap that nevertheless travelled with me on four continents doing it's job quietly. Watch a movie in the hostel, manage my photos, send an e-mail, book a hostel in the next city.

The writing was on the wall, though, when I did my last major trip with the EeePC at home and nothing more than a Samsung Galaxy II phone as my to-go device.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:21 AM on December 31, 2012


I admit that I'm a dinosaur in all this. I was in high school from 1992 through 1996, and learned to type on an IBM Selectric under the the despotic Mr. Ruiz. He'd whack the side of the metal desk with a yardstick if you typed "teh". This wouldn't have been so bad if he wasn't so silent, gliding around the room and reading over everyone's shoulders... I still am creeped out by someone reading over my shoulder. Brr. However, as a consequence, I type ninety words per minute. I also write a great deal, so a tablet and it's weird thumb-based hunt-and-peck holds little allure for me. I still use a Blackberry, as well- a tiny keyboard will suffice for texting so long as it's a real keyboard.

I'm really curious about how young kids are going to learn to write and type. My husband never learned to type, and prefers a touchscreen to a real keyboard. My stepson is 14, hasn't learned cursive*, and does know how to type, albeit slowly. He's blazing fast on his tiny iPod Touch virtual keyboard, though. My daughter is 6. I don't know if she'll ever learn how to type the way I did. The virtual keyboards that her dad and brother use seem to make much more sense to her. She likes that they are in alphabetical order.

I've had more than one daydream that in ten years, I'm going to be searching eBay for a manual Underwood, so that I can type properly and then scan my stuff into Google Docs.

*No, I don't think the lack of cursive has hurt him. I love handwriting- I do calligrapy and other lettering- but I think fancy writing is something that's more appropriately taught in art class these days.
posted by Athene at 11:22 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I guess my next AskMe is going to be about what to buy as a replacemnt. I think iPads are pretty and they do cool things but I think the limitations of tablets (like the unzipping thing mentioned above) make them not what I want.
For my small hands, the 10" size was *perfect*

I see some folks have mentioned sales on small computers so maybe that's my best shot...
posted by pointystick at 11:23 AM on December 31, 2012


I didn't understand until recently how netbooks weren't just DVD-driveless laptops, often with smaller screens ... as an "ultrabook" or Mac Air. But after hearing vituperative reviews from friends, who all seemingly *hated* their netbooks that had been purchased or recommended by their techie friends, I gathered they were just small laptops with shit components and slow processors.
posted by mortram at 11:25 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've just got the Samsung Chromebook and it's very good.

200 pounds instead of the 850 Apple wants for its most basic laptop, plus no need to buy MS Office or photoshop etc.

Of course, I've had to surrender my entire data life to Google, but I don't care because Apple are equally the bad guys now.
posted by colie at 11:26 AM on December 31, 2012


Um, that is completely wrong. From the day it was debuted the iPad was positioned as an alternative to a computer, one that was more flexible than a laptop and capable of more potent interfaces.

I hate to disagree, but Apple only reluctantly came around to the idea of the iPad as a PC replacement rather than as a peripheral, and still hasn't bought into it completely. Early versions of iOS required you to physically connect your iPad to your PC, and sync it with iTunes to upgrade the firmware. You couldn't even turn it on fresh out of the box without a computer running iTunes. They would much rather sell you a Mac with an iPad than the iPad alone - syncing between MacOS and iOS is a top priority. The iPad's software and iTunes are being developed with the assumption that the iPad and iPhone are elements of a larger personal computing ecosystem, and that you will have a desktop or notebook you want to sync with it (now with cloud-flavored goodness).

Android is different - they expect you to use Google services everywhere. A PC is irrelevant, and syncing with a desktop or notebook is a major PITA without third party software.

Both approaches are valid, and choosing one over the other is largely a matter of taste and working style. (I prefer Android for munging text and keeping lists and doing email, and the iPad for games and dedicated apps.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:27 AM on December 31, 2012


Do Chromebooks count as netbooks?

This pretty much highlights the awkwardness of saying "the Netbook is dead". The Netbook was never really alive - it's a marketing term. One could declare the Ultrabook dead tomorrow, if one wished, and slim, light Intel-powered laptops would continue to exist. The market for inexpensive clamshell form factor devices with QWERTY keyboards has been cannibalized at one end by phones and tablets and at the other end by... inexpensive clamshell form factor devices.

Do Chromebooks count as Netbooks? For that matter, does the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11, which has a smaller screen the the Asus Eee 1215N did, or the Alienware M11x?

In many ways the Asus Eee 701, and then the 901, were pathfinding exercises for how small that clamshell/desktop GUI operating system metaphor could go before it stopped being useful. Arguably, one very good consequence of that was that it showed that you really shouldn't be telling people that their 7 inch device would work best with a physical keyboard and pointing device, and a desktop operating system. Asus and Acer, and others, ended up standardizing on a 10-11.6 inch screen, then that particular loadout fell foul of cost, performance and in particular power management changes in Intel's core line on one side, and on improvements in tablet computing and phone-driven power increases in ARM processor on the other.

At the time the Eee PC 701 came out, if memory serves, I was using a 12-inch G4 Powerbook, which I felt was the optimum form factor for portable computing. If they'd just asked... in fact, if someone released a modern laptop with the form factor of the 12" G4 Powerbook, I'd break their arm in my haste to buy it...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:42 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


mullingitover: Eh, that's like saying "these new 'automobile' things aren't very good. They lack the ability to hook up a horse team when you don't feel like running the engine." (IMHO) the whole idea of the tablet is that you don't need to print anymore. Physical media going the way of the Dodo bird and all that. See also: no optical drives in the latest hardware.

That's one thing that really, really bothers me about Apple, and is starting to bother me about Google and MS now that they're doing it too. Everyone is just too willing to try to tell you what you should be doing with your computer, usually by making it hard or impossible to do the 'wrong' thing.

I can understand that, if you have a tablet, maybe it doesn't make sense to print stuff to read it yourself. But you have no idea what I'm doing or why I need to print, so don't tell me I shouldn't be doing it. Maybe it's actually easy to print, I don't know, but that strategy pervades the way Apple does things and it makes their computers insufferable to work on. Android also does it, and now Windows 8 and Ubuntu (of all things) are starting to copy it. It's maddening.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:47 AM on December 31, 2012 [15 favorites]


I love my Asus Eee 900. The literal 900, as in MHz on the Celeron proccessor. Got it refurb in 2009 and it's still going strong, zero problems. Best $170 I've ever spent, but it has seen greater disuse since I got my first smartphone (a Galaxy) 10 months ago.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 11:48 AM on December 31, 2012


I don't know where this "iPad can't print" meme got started but Airprint has been around since iOS 4.2 and hundreds of models of printers and MFDs now support it.

Except AirPrint isn't the way any normal "computer" on a home network would print. The normal home network would have a printer hooked-up to a wireless router, sharing the printer to anyone on the network. So, hit "Print" and you're printing. No need for a special app, and no need to buy a new printer that has AirPrint.

AirPrint is a kludge to get around Apple's "vision" for iDevices running headlong into how people actually want to use the things. iDevices couldn't print directly because they were envisioned as "cloud" devices. No one in the "cloud" future would need to print anything! Except...oops...the damned users DO need to print shit. Quick...Get this things printing somehow.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:49 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "I do not understand the drive toward smaller and smaller devices. I've got a 15 inch screen and it feels tiny. I don't get why you'd want less space to work with."

If you need a large screen, 15" is, in fact, tiny. Which is why I have a monitor to dock portable things into. And even that feels small compared to the dual 24" widescreens at work.

The drive towards smaller devices is about 3 things: weight, bulk and battery. My 14" Thinkpad is pretty damn heavy with extended battery and charger. I assume it's also more expensive to ship. It's also big enough that flights where the guy in front of me leans back are unfun.

In contrast, the Transformer Infinity, the line ASUS is continuing, is very light, long battery life, and optional keyboard. It is of course, relatively expensive.
posted by pwnguin at 11:49 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


So sad that the industry nipped the 12" netbook segment in the bud. Could have been different.

I've been happy with my inexpensive AMD Fusion powered 12.1" EeePC for the past 3 years and will probably continue using it for another 2 years or until it falls apart. Remind me to pick up spare battery packs while they're still available.
posted by vanlal at 11:51 AM on December 31, 2012


iDevices couldn't print directly because they were envisioned as "cloud" devices.

Google's Cloud Print was easy and free and lets me print from my Chromebook, iPhone and MacBook with a 5 year old printer.

Yay Google.
posted by colie at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


bonehead: "iOs has a number of sucky limitations like that that really hold it back from being a first class experience as a general-purpose computer. Android, to be fair, is almost (but not quite) as bad. With the introduction of Windows 8/RT, it will be interesting to see where things go in the next few years. iOs (and Android) may be as transitory on tablets as the Apple ][ os was for PCs, a decent first try, but replaced by something revolutionary that really works for tablets as computers from the ground up."

I'm moderately interested to see just how far the software industry goes to reinvent the wheel, before tablets operating systems morph back into full-fledged Desktop OSes (with slightly different UIs)

iOS already shares most of its underpinnings with OS X, so Apple's not exactly in a completely terrible position. iOS doesn't appear to have any fundamental technical weaknesses that will cripple it in the future. Apple aren't stuck in the pickle that Palm and RIM got trapped in, where their simple OSes couldn't evolve to take advantage of modern hardware. iOS has a very solid technical foundation.

That said, even though there are no technical hurdles, Apple may be stuck in the wrong paradigm for the iPad. Even if Apple takes printing and typing seriously, it's going to be difficult to convince their developers to do so. Mac developers still don't add useful right-click context menus to their apps, and Windows developers rarely bother to properly implement drag-and-drop in their apps. The technical reasons for both of these trends were solved well over a decade ago, and yet they persist in the developer culture.

These culture clashes even exist internally. A lot has been written about Microsoft's "lost decade," where numerous missteps caused factions to grow within the company that effectively prevented the Windows platform from evolving. Sure, we got .NET, but it was a difficult sell to the public given that many teams within Microsoft were refusing to use it internally.

Even within Apple, you see the same thing. There's no good technical reason for why an iPad can't just run OS X's printing backend, and talk to printers like a normal computer would.

Android's in a similar (but somewhat stranger) boat. The platform's Linux underpinnings are unquestionably solid, and Google's done a great job of gradually adding functionality to the OS's core libraries. However, again, the platform's underlying architecture is often baffling, the development/release model is hopelessly fucked, and Google has had an uphill battle convincing their developers to adhere to the platform's UI guidelines. Given the platform's fractured development model and constant vendor meddling, it's remarkable that it's managed to evolve or survive at all.

That said, Android developers also don't expect their devices to ever be tethered to a computer. This will grow to become an advantage for them.

tl;dr: Even if Apple and Google bolt printing support onto their operating systems, it's not going to change how its users and developers think about the platform. Earlier Tablet PCs and smartphones failed because developers never had a compelling argument to code and design for "mobile first." Even the mighty Apple will have trouble convincing their developers to start treating iOS devices as fully-independent systems that shouldn't expect their users to also have a computer. Apple don't even appear to be able to convince themselves of this.

Microsoft may have the strongest position here. While Windows 8 is hella awkward to use on a desktop at first, their fusion of the touch UI with a traditional desktop UI actually seems to work, and developers seem to have gotten the memo that WinRT applications shouldn't be half-assed. It's going to be a hard sell on the desktop, but Microsoft's lack of presence in the mobile/tablet markets is a distinct advantage, given that they have the opportunity to form and guide perceptions and expectations for the platform.
posted by schmod at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2012


I have no idea why the iPad can't print like other computers can, and it drives me batty.

My printer is hooked up to the home network and things print to it with a minimum of fuss. I had no idea this was even an issue until I tried to print up a boarding pass from my mom's iPad and it wouldn't work without buying some 3rd party app.

Same for browsing my local network, you'd think that a tablet with relatively small storage would make it easy to use stuff off your home network. Again, not without some 3rd party app. I have no idea if Android is the same, but this is one of my beef's with the iOS ecosystem.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:55 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


You people that have mentioned fan loudness issues with your Macbook Airs are either using old ones or need to do a PRAM and/or SMC reset.
posted by cellphone at 11:55 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Netbooks didn't die of obsolescence or better alternatives arising in the ecosystem, they died because they were intentionally, brutally strangled in the bath by Intel and Microsoft, when they realized that 'good enough' chips in a convenient form factor would spell the end of their extremely lucrative business model.

Unfortunately enough for them the cat was out of the bag, and Apple and others capitalized on that by releasing phones and tablets with 586-level ARM chips, which were immediately popular because they (a) didn't carry the Intel and Windows tax, (b) were entirely 'good enough' for a vast majority of the target market, and (c) had Angry Birds.
posted by felix at 11:57 AM on December 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


That's one thing that really, really bothers me about Apple, and is starting to bother me about Google and MS now that they're doing it too. Everyone is just too willing to try to tell you what you should be doing with your computer, usually by making it hard or impossible to do the 'wrong' thing.

Case in point: OS X and Windows are trying to manhandle desktop users into a touchscreen interface for everything Because Of Reasons (well, Because Of Tablets But No Other Reasons). Until they make desktop monitors and television screens that are completely smudge-resistant and desktop OSes that aren't an unholy mess to use in both device and touch modes, they can fuck right off with that. And neither of them is a "natural evolution" in computer interfaces, for that matter. Both Lion and Win8 are designed for the wrong types of hardware in the name of forcefully "easing" users into the transition years before either of them is completely ready, with the added bonus of just telling the enterprise user to suck it, despite the fact that almost every enterprise user is a causal user as well. It's fine and dandy that we'll supposedly all have touchscreen interfaces at home, but until they can do some serious cost-cutting in the enterprise hardware field, it's going to be a shitstorm in every office mandated to move to newer OSes and useless for those that don't.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:05 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders: Until they make desktop monitors and television screens that are completely smudge-resistant and desktop OSes that aren't an unholy mess to use in both device and touch modes, they can fuck right off with that.

I'm of the opinion that they may continue until they invent a human arm that can use a touchscreen interface for 8 hours on a large, upright monitor without getting exhausted, then continue doing it for years without a repetitive-stress disorder of the shoulder. They also have to do it as fast and accurately as a mouse.

In other words, never. Touchscreen interfaces are and always have been poor interfaces, suitable only when better ones don't work because of size or mobility constraints. Nobody will ever want to use one all the time.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:12 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


Being a sausage-fingered hamfist, I find typing on a tablet impossible. I keep going into PC World and trying different ones to see if I can make the jump, but I can't. I love my little Toshiba XP netbook. For a while it was my main computer, but I've a bigger laptop now and so the netbook is relegated to when I travel.

The only tablet I'd consider buying is the one with the cover that turns into a keyboard that docks, and so I might as well stick with my netbook.
posted by essexjan at 12:20 PM on December 31, 2012


I just bought an Asus Transformer tablet, with additional keyboard dock, which I think is the best of both worlds. Nice light tablet, with additional one-pound keyboard I can snap on whenever I want a small laptop.

I wanted a tablet, but I specifically wanted one I could also use like a netbook - so there is customer demand out there. The tablet part is great for reading or laying in bed, and I can bring it to a coffee shop and still have it lighter than a laptop.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:25 PM on December 31, 2012


another cul de sac of technology-- the portable word processsing device-- which consists ONLY of a keyboard-- AlphaSmart [now the Neo] and a tiny screen the size of a business card.

I bought 2 different brands from ebay to test them out. These are highly available on the used market, because schools are disposing of their inventory. Ensure that you get a USB cable-- the tablet takes a huge sqare Type B connector cable with a standard Type A connector to transfer data to a computer. Power adaptor would be useful too, although these are economical with AA's. Request a manual, some of the settings are counter-intutive.

MY REVIEW:
For a blind rush to pound out words, without editing or looking back-- 10/10.

For poetry, cutting and pasting, outlining or formatting -- not so much.
posted by ohshenandoah at 12:27 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I admit that I'm a dinosaur in all this. I was in high school from 1992 through 1996, and learned to type on an IBM Selectric under the the despotic Mr. Ruiz.

Which would make me an amoeba emerging from the seas as Mrs Hayes taught us typing on the old manual computers back in the Spring of 1983, my senior year.

I think that's the issue - touch typists vs touch screens. That's why the ASUS Zenbook has driven me crazy with its useless keyboard. As a touch typist, its the worst keyboard I've used till date. Are you listening ASUS designers? Or will our needs just fade into the past as the majority emerges who learnt to type with their thumbs?
posted by infini at 12:28 PM on December 31, 2012


crap. I love my eee901 & my mini9. Acers not so much... I bet it's all win8's fault. Gonna buy a couple asap.
posted by 3mendo at 12:30 PM on December 31, 2012


Suprisingly, touchscreen laptops don't suck.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on December 31, 2012


Incidentally, cobaltnine

As a small-handed person, my cheap 10" eee has been my BFF through two Master's degrees (assuming it doesn't die before May). The amount I've written on it has probably exceeded the amount I've written on any one other device, per amount of time I've had it. It also fits inside those narrow hotel room safes. I will be sad when it dies and I have to get a tablet + keyboard.

My partner (primarily an academic) has a 10" Eee - the one with the 40GB SSD running Xandros Linux rather than the one with the HDD running Windows XP - and has written at least one book on it. When it dies, since partner has limited interest in tablets (typing being what a computer is basically for in the partnerverse) I'll probably recommend something like the Lenovo IdeaPad S206 - low-power processor, 11.6" screen, Windows 7, probably about $300 with coupons.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:40 PM on December 31, 2012


There are plenty of times when I choose to print something out rather than use my smartphone or netbook. I'm visiting Montreal right now, and just yesterday I wanted to go out on a record store tour. Of course Montreal is, as usual, one giant snowbank with wind whipping it up in every direction, so it was much easier to print out the results from my AskMe about local record stores, along with a google map plotting them, and whip that out on the street than try to stab at my phone with shivering fingers.
posted by mannequito at 12:45 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can't throw windows around.

I've only used (other peoples') netbooks a couple times, but the screens were so small I couldn't really imagine trying to use multiple windows. There just didn't seem to be much "around" to throw them. Maybe things have changed a lot, but just the normal taskbars and such would leave almost no room to do webmail. Full-screen apps seem much more useful on a small device, and for the most part I use them whenever I can on my 13" laptop.

I think in some ways working on a tiny laptop is more frustrating than working on something like an iPod touch. I think it is partially because the netbooks I used didn't change the interface to optimize for a small screen, and also because the form factor leads the user to expect to have a more-or-less normal laptop experience.
posted by snofoam at 1:08 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except AirPrint isn't the way any normal "computer" on a home network would print. The normal home network would have a printer hooked-up to a wireless router, sharing the printer to anyone on the network. So, hit "Print" and you're printing. No need for a special app, and no need to buy a new printer that has AirPrint.

AirPrint is a kludge to get around Apple's "vision" for iDevices running headlong into how people actually want to use the things. iDevices couldn't print directly because they were envisioned as "cloud" devices. No one in the "cloud" future would need to print anything! Except...oops...the damned users DO need to print shit. Quick...Get this things printing somehow.


I swear if Apple released this thing ten years ago we would have had the following:

Except wireless isn't the way any normal "computer" on a home network would access the Internet. The normal home network would have a computer hooked-up to a router, sharing the connection to anyone on the network. So, open IE and you're browsing. No need for a special app, no need to buy a new router that has wireless.

Wireless is a kludge to get around Apple's "vision" for iDevices running headlong into how people actually want to connect the things. iDevices couldn't connect directly into the network because they were envisioned as "wireless" devices. No one in the "wireless" future would need wires to connect to anything! Except...oops...the damned users DO need to connect shit. Quick...Get this things communicating with the Internet somehow.


You know there was a time when people may have needed a driver disk for the USB Mass Storage device class because Windows 98 didn't have one built in? That didn't stop the proliferation and eventual ubiquity of the USB key format. Stuff becomes obsolete, people replace it and the tech eventually becomes hassle free and ubiquitous after a transition period. Ubiquity sometimes takes time but all roads point to vendors supporting wireless printing in one way or another. You may as well be demanding the iPad have an Ethernet port at this point.
posted by Talez at 1:12 PM on December 31, 2012


Also, regarding my last comment, I don't mean to imply that it is actually easier to do stuff on an iPod touch, but to me it seems surprisingly useful, versus a netbook that looks like a laptop but is surprisingly frustrating.
posted by snofoam at 1:16 PM on December 31, 2012


if you have time to review your shots, you're not spending enough time behind the camera

Thats not a viable method of making better pictures, its better to sit down and have some time to reflect and so on.

Anyway - netbooks - very good for photography field trips and so on - tablets are useless for memory capacity, running adobe photoshop, bridge etc (yes i know theres an app, but its not good enough). I have a cracking little hp whatever it is for that.
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:25 PM on December 31, 2012


The normal home network would have a printer hooked-up to a wireless router, sharing the printer to anyone on the network. So, hit "Print" and you're printing. No need for a special app, and no need to buy a new printer that has AirPrint.

The way they keep printers so cheap (apart from fun tricks like shipping them with their expensive, proprietary ink cartridges 1/3 full) is by making the computer do most of the work. Hitting "print" executes a shitload of code. If you were going to print to, say, my &%*@$# Lexmark printer from an iPad then Lexmark would have to make a massive iPad app to do the same thing the so-called driver suite does on the Mac.

AirPrint has the virtue of forcing this requirement back onto the printer manufacturer, to make a printer that can actually print something without massive software support on the sending side.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:28 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Each to their own, of course, but I have to stick up for the 11" Macbook Air as well. It's the first laptop I've ever owned that I've been happy with. 100%. It doesn't do a single thing wrong. Yeah, it gets hot running Minecraft, but my previous Toshiba laptop did as well - you can't fight entropy, I guess. It's also the first OSX machine I've ever had, and I'm really starting to like OSX, but 80% of the reason I love the MBA is simply the hardware.
posted by Jimbob at 1:28 PM on December 31, 2012


I do not understand the drive toward smaller and smaller devices. I've got a 15 inch screen and it feels tiny. I don't get why you'd want less space to work with.
posted by Pope Guilty


I love a big screen. At work, I have something like 21 inches, and it's wonderful.

But that job ends in January, and I'm back to working out of a 500-sq foot apartment again (and that shared with someone else working from home). It's not like I can carry a 21-inch monitor (even a flat screen) and a desktop computer to the nearest coffee shop or to the library. When I've attended lectures, even a 14-inch laptop barely fit on those little desks - 10 inches would have been much better. And - as came up in the backpack discussion - weight is also an issue. Netbooks are substantially lighter than laptops even just a little bit bigger.

And then there are people like my SO. He has a disability such that he can't easily use a paper notebook and he's carried around a computer with a keyboard everyday, everywhere since the 80s. Netbooks were a god-send for him: he'd been having to use much more expensive and delicate devices aimed at the executive market (like the old Psions - $1000 each and only lasted 1-2 years, if that) or lug around a full sized laptop if he wanted to do anything like take notes at a meeting - something the rest of us do on paper without thinking.

Computers are like socks or boots or foods: there is no one right way. Everyone's needs are different. I love my iPod which is so small and convenient and I think iPads are too large and heavy; my partially-blind friend needs an iPad because she needs to set the font sizes much higher to read than I do. Some people want/need big keyboards, other people need small, portable computers and are willing to give up on screen and keyboard size for it.
posted by jb at 1:38 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I meant for the light work/multimedia/internet capabilities most netbooks were being purchased.

Do we really know why most netbook are purchased? Does anyone do the market research?

Everyone I know who has a netbook - my ex-roommate (who had one of the first in the US), my SO, both of my parents - all do a lot of typing. My roommate and my SO have both written large parts of their PhDs on netbooks, using not just word processing but also bibliographic software. The minute we saw them, we all thought: ah, computers for academics who need to make notes and write! Internet access was extra. My mom got one to type letters and work on spreadsheets; my dad uses his to download photos via a card-reader (iPads don't have SD slots). None of the tablets now available do what they need or run the software (Linux or Windows) that they need -- and few of the tablets are as cheap as their netbooks were.
posted by jb at 1:46 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Rory Marinich: "I hope that the computer industry gets their act together and figures out how to create a legitimately "good enough" machine that people who don't need the Apple premium can find something satisfying that suits their needs. It's not the Surface (god, what a wretched machine), and I haven't played with Chromebooks but the web-only thing still seems suspect. There's got to be another alternative, beyond pairing cruddy devices with loud, obnoxious marketing."

I've played with a Chromebook (albeit briefly) and, while it's not for me, I think it is the affordable "good enough" machine that you're thinking of. The web-only thing is pretty much how they made that compromise work: that way, the machine doesn't require a lot of hard drive space, has software that instantly updates, runs quiet, and does 90% of the things that people who don't need or want to invest in computers need or want to do. Plus, it keeps the processor load appropriate for what you can get in a $250 machine, which was always the problem I ran into with traditional netbooks - it looked like you could do a lot more than you could actually do.

I'm quite happy for a world in which both the Macbook and the Chromebook exist - they serve two very different markets, and they're both respectively the best computers at serving those markets. I've got a Macbook for my day to day work computing, and it's great. I'm also happy to have my Nexus 7 with a Logitech Android Keyboard that comes with its own case and folds up to pretty much as small as a full size keyboard can fold up to physically. When I work at home, the Macbook goes up on a stand with an Apple Wired (that's right, wired because I want all 110 keys) Keyboard and a Magic Trackpad. I've got the equivalent of a desktop, a heavy laptop, and a typing tablet, and that flexibility is superb.

On the money issue ... people spend money on different things. People value different things. People spend different portions of their days in front of things, and I'm of the general disposition that, if you spend a lot of time in front of something, you should try to spend as much on it as you can afford. But it doesn't matter what price a thing is, it can still be overpriced for what it delivers. I think most netbooks (not all - it sounds like the eeePCs were pretty solid, for example) were overpriced for what they deliver. They're especially overpriced when you consider a Chromebook, or the Nexus 7 with a portable keyboard, or an iPad with a keyboard cover.
posted by Apropos of Something at 1:56 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm really freaked out by the idea of storing all or most of my data online -- not because someone might get into it, but that I might lose access to it if anyone else can delete it if I don't keep up a subscription/violate their (arcane) terms and conditions. Does this bother anyone else? I'll happily use cloud storage as a backup, but not my primary data storage.

Of course, I also don't see updating programs frequently as a good feature - too much chance of losing the aspects I like.
posted by jb at 2:06 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love my iPad mini for the things it excels at, but it would absolutely drive me batty if it were my only computing device, with or without a bluetooth keyboard.
posted by modernnomad at 2:06 PM on December 31, 2012


Mitrovarr: "That's one thing that really, really bothers me about Apple, and is starting to bother me about Google and MS now that they're doing it too. Everyone is just too willing to try to tell you what you should be doing with your computer, usually by making it hard or impossible to do the 'wrong' thing."

I don't see what's so hard about plugging in an external optical drive, I mean they're 20 bucks brand new on Amazon. At least in my case, it's totally reasonable to get rid of the dead weight. I actually ripped the optical drive out of my laptop and replaced it with a hard drive sled, no regrets.

In general, I appreciate 'everybody' starting to get with the program and clear out the artifacts of a bygone era. It makes room for new and more useful stuff, or for adding lightness.
posted by mullingitover at 2:06 PM on December 31, 2012


It’s too bad they’re going to stop making these. I have a eee PC that runs Windows XP and I’ve installed Office 2007 and R Studio on it along with tons of other software. I’ve used it with a wireless mouse as a backup computer for several years, and it’s saved my bacon some many times.

I’ve used it to make last minutes changes on PowerPoint slides and Word documents during presentations and meetings. Having access to the full version of Excel on it is so incredibly useful. When Wifi or high speed internet has been unavailable, I have a small USB telephone modem that I have used to connect to my ISPs dial up service to at least be able to check email. I haven’t noticed any slowness running XP at all. Even Office 2007 runs pretty well on it. For most things, the Microsoft Works that came bundled with it is perfectly fine.

I spent $250 for it. It’s so light and small and much easier than carrying around even a slightly larger laptop. It took some time to learn to type quickly on the small keyboard. But, I also found it took some time to feel comfortable using the touch interface on my tablet as well.

Like a few others have mentioned in this thread, I’m going to go out and see if I can pick up a new one. I’ll get one that runs Windows 7. It’s great having a full operating system that can run the same software I use at work and plus there’s so much specialized technical software out there that runs only on Windows. My current one has lasted quite a few years and hopefully it'll keep going. But, I'd like to be prepared just in case.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 2:14 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


mullingitover: I don't see what's so hard about plugging in an external optical drive, I mean they're 20 bucks brand new on Amazon. At least in my case, it's totally reasonable to get rid of the dead weight. I actually ripped the optical drive out of my laptop and replaced it with a hard drive sled, no regrets.

It's not really the optical drive thing - in fact, that's a good example of something that isn't done that way (you can buy one cheap and easy and it works). It's more things where the alternative is either not available or deliberately made difficult - stuff like not being able to install arbitrary software on iOS devices, the iPad not having USB ports, not having direct filesystem access, etc. Even simple things not like being easily able to change the mouse acceleration curve of the Mac pro I use at work, a tiny thing that nonetheless renders a big, powerful desktop so unpleasant to use I prefer my cheap windows laptop.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:17 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


For those of you who type on touchscreens: how do your fingers know where they are? I can't imagine my muscle memory ever being able to operate on a non-physical keyboard.
posted by bookman117 at 2:20 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those of you who type on touchscreens: how do your fingers know where they are? I can't imagine my muscle memory ever being able to operate on a non-physical keyboard.

I type everything completely wrong and let autocorrect sort it out.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:30 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bookman117, it may sound weird, but after typing on any given screen for a while, you soon get a sense of how far your thumbs need to travel to get to certain letters, and you learn to trust autocorrects instead of trying to get things right. (this is especially the case for keyboards that learn based on the words you use, like SwiftKey for Android, which may be too far on the data mining side of things for some folk's comfort.)

The thing that trips me up is moving from decide to device. I'm used to my phone, but not yet to my nexus 7 tablet. I still simply cannot type on my iPod touch...

And I wish that desktop OSes had automatic auto correct.
posted by subversiveasset at 2:35 PM on December 31, 2012


Oh typing on an on-screen keyboard is easy: I just type extra slowly, staring at my hands the whole time like I've been experimenting with something illicit, with audible clicks turned on so I can get at least some feedback. Oh, yes, and I also let autocorrect sorting if put... dirt or utter... dammit, dammit!
posted by Dreadnought at 2:43 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've been using an eee for almost two years and while it's not exactly accurate to say I love that sluggish little piece of crap it's definitely done what I needed when I need it to. I can check google reader, send emails, work on powerpoint presentations and play anything on steam from before 2007 and certain games that are more recent (portal 2 runs fine!). If it were my main computer I'd probably resort to selling all of my other possessions to buy a good desktop but as a travel machine for vacations and trips and a day to day machine to kill two hours around lunch time it's great.

At this point I can't really see myself buying anything that doesn't run steam and a decent selection of games when I do eventually replace it. Somewhere around a dozen humble bundles in I've got a huge backlog of high quality casual games I'm still working through, so a device that can't run any of them doesn't especially appeal. Not that I don't do lots of other stuff, but anything I buy is going to run word processing so extras like "compatible with those hundred and fifty games you already bought" have to be the deciding factor.
posted by sandswipe at 2:54 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


$250 then? I would love to see a case and iPad for that price.

More like $350-400 for a decent netbook with comparable screen and performance qualities to a full-sized, new iPad 2, at least looking at the well-spec'ed Sony netbooks my campus bookstore used to sell. (And cheaper, if you go with a refurbished iPad 2, or about the same price for an iPad 3 with a much higher-resolution screen.) Most of the Acer and other netbooks I tested in the $200-300 range were cheap for a reason: very poor graphics adapters (too slow to run most streaming or file-based videos without dropping frames or stuttering, at least), slowness and clunkiness due to XP, tiny screens, poor keyboards and trackpads (some were missing keys available on full-sized keyboards, or the trackpad didn't work well or was poorly placed on the device), and poor wireless range. I guess XP could have been replaced with Linux, but that would have been more work and wouldn't have addressed any of the hardware issues.

Netbooks had good weight and size characteristics, but at that price range, a lot of the important, aforementioned hardware and software corners had to be cut in order for Acer et al. to make a profit. Sony tried making nice netbooks, but they were closer to MacBook Airs and cost a lot more. Given how many have been buying them, it looks like the iPad and iPad mini have provided better value propositions than netbooks for more people, and it looks like there have been a few Surface-like keyboards out for iOS devices for about as long as the Surface — maybe longer. An equivalently spec'ed iPad 2 with Surface-like BT keyboard would certainly go for about the same as an equivalent useful netbook (which is definitely more than $250, if we compare things on the same level), and given sales figures, I think the public has made a strong case for that as well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:56 PM on December 31, 2012


Bookman117, it may sound weird, but after typing on any given screen for a while, you soon get a sense of how far your thumbs need to travel to get to certain letters, and you learn to trust autocorrects instead of trying to get things right. (this is especially the case for keyboards that learn based on the words you use, like SwiftKey for Android, which may be too far on the data mining side of things for some folk's comfort.)

The thing that trips me up is moving from decide to device. I'm used to my phone, but not yet to my nexus 7 tablet. I still simply cannot type on my iPod touch...


I am not looking forward to the death of the netbook.
posted by bookman117 at 3:20 PM on December 31, 2012


I have a little Aspire netbook that my wife wasn't using any more that I've installed Ubuntu on and have been using to do some Python and web development stuff on. I just use it as a headless server and mostly ssh into it from my Windows laptop or sometimes use VNC to connect to the desktop. It works fine for that. I can't use the keyboard myself since my hands are giant but a little laptop like that makes a nice quiet low power server.

I've also got a printer and a backup drive connected to it and it works nicely as a windows network file and print server.
posted by octothorpe at 3:23 PM on December 31, 2012


I'm moderately interested to see just how far the software industry goes to reinvent the wheel, before tablets operating systems morph back into full-fledged Desktop OSes (with slightly different UIs)

If you have a jailbroken iPad, you can install Quasar and run windowed apps. It works quite well: having a terminal window plus the browser onscreen is handy.
posted by zippy at 3:59 PM on December 31, 2012


AirPrint is a kludge to get around Apple's "vision" for iDevices running headlong into how people actually want to use the things.

AirPrint is an common interface to prevent:

- iDevices requiring thousands of different printer drivers, bloating the operating system
- driver installation

The current method of desktops requiring device drivers to interface with what is basically a service is ridiculous and complicated. I really don't blame Apple for trying to simplify that interaction when they had the chance, even if it's currently awkward with compatibility.
posted by a. at 4:29 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I did like my two netbooks--an Acer and a Samsung--and managed to do some serious writing on them, but the keyboards were always frustrating (even for a small woman like myself). And the novel I'm editing, which is a 700-page behemoth, caused the Samsung to go into all sorts of conniption fits. Hence the advent of the low-end Asus I'm using to type this comment, which cost about the same as the Samsung, but has a better keyboard, a larger screen, better sound...and, most importantly, isn't suffering from BSOD by Robert Elsmere.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:30 PM on December 31, 2012


I wish that Lenovo would come out with a netbook using the Butterfly Keyboard from the IBM 701.
posted by octothorpe at 4:45 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


"it may sound weird, but after typing on any given screen for a while, you soon get a sense of how far your thumbs need to travel to get to certain letters, and you learn to trust autocorrects instead of trying to get things right."

Right. I've been noticing a lot of weird typos in people's online comments recently....
posted by glasseyes at 5:11 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've been doing the rounds trying to figure out what I want to buy to replace my dying-a-slow-and-noisy-hot-death 15" acer laptop for my impending PhD. And I was seriously considering a netbook. I have a monitor, wireless keyboard and mouse at home for serious use, I just want something portable and easy.

Yes I do have an iPad but I hate typing on it, can't sync it particularly well with my home set up (Windows) and since it's an ancient iPad 1, nothing is updating well and it's starting to be a bit painful to use.

So far the only thing that has stopped me getting a netbook is the spectre of stuttering and slow typing/programs. The slow death of the current HDD is making this machine clunky as and the thought of a new machine being equivalent? Eeshh no. But nothing in this thread has made me not want one, just for the formfactor - I have tiny hands and prefer tiny keyboards. I don't need/want to play games. Hell, I rarely watch movies on my devices any more. Very rarely I do some photo editing/graphic design.

So add me to the pack waiting for the sales.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:37 PM on December 31, 2012


The more that I think about it, I’d put netbooks in the cheap but bombproof category of goods. There’s been a series of posts on MeFi about products that are cheap but do the thing that they are designed to do really well:

The Toyota Hilux truck

The Casio F91W watch

The Nokia 1100 cell phone

There was also a really popular Ask MeFi thread about this: I'm looking for examples of insanely overbuilt, reasonably-priced consumer goods: "Cheap, bombproof...XXXXX"

A netbook running Windows or Linux is an incredibly useful tool. On a Windows netbook, I’d install something like Liberkey on it. Liberkey provides almost 300 freeware/open source programs that do all sorts of things from full on office suites to obscure utilities that will pull information from different open windows. Even if the internet was down, you’d have an incredible number of free tools available to use. The USB ports add another entire layer of flexibility. There’s so much cheap USB hardware available too: cd drives, telephone modems, scanners, printers, usb keys. Netbooks are like the Swiss army pocket knives of computers.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 5:57 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have to stick up for the 11" Macbook Air as well. It's the first laptop I've ever owned that I've been happy with. 100%

I'm sure I'd be happy with a Macbook Air too, but the cheapest model costs a thousand bucks. There's no way I'm taking a thousand bucks' worth of computer down to the pub.

Does this bother anyone else? I'll happily use cloud storage as a backup, but not my primary data storage.

Right there with you. Nothing free lasts forever, and even when they let you pay for the service you're likely to get cut off as soon as you start to do anything interesting with it. I'll keep my data on my own hardware, thanks.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:05 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I use an EEEPC at work as my main internet machine, which I take with me when I'm on the road. It does all the development jobs I need in the field. At the shop I plug it into a bigger monitor and a USB hub with real keyboard and mouse, and it's entirely adequate for 90% of what I do.

In the field it's wonderful. Much easier to deal with than a full size laptop when I have to balance it on one hand in the middle of a working chicken processing plant to download new firmware to a controller. Lighter to take up to the room for checking the email. I got one for my wife when her ca. 2002 desktop died; it's about the same spec as that machine and now it's the only computer she would consider taking with her on travels to do her journal and sort her pictures.

This all involves running Windows software, much of it closed source and proprietary for industrial applications and device drivers for cameras and printers, so tablets are not really an option.

Hopefully someone will grow a clue and re-enter this market once they realize it actually is still a market. Maybe we don't need eight suppliers but we do need at least one.
posted by localroger at 7:09 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Surely the market will still exist. The HP Pavillion DM1 is a slightly better device than netbooks were but at $AU 350 it's an excellent deal. It's got a 12" screen, with a vertical res of 768 which is great. The keyboard works well enough and it will do crazy stuff like accept a camera card, host USB and print without any issues whatsoever.

I have one as a travel computer and I'm OK with taking it to a pub or whatever. It does for me what my now defunct netbook did The niche is still there and various companies will target it.
posted by sien at 7:32 PM on December 31, 2012


That DM1 is a good looking machine. A bit bigger than I'd like for a portable after the EEE experience, but the battery performance and price point are right and it's not *much*worse on the hands balancing in the chicken plant or as a lump in the carefully trimmed backpack. I suspect there will be other offerings that might not be called "netbooks" but which will be meeting our needs.
posted by localroger at 8:11 PM on December 31, 2012


.

This is very sad to me. I absolutely adore my MSI Wind netbook. I bought it for college in 2009 and it's still working great, although I should probably replace the battery soon. I think it cost me $275. I ride my bike to school every day and I love having a lightweight computer to take with me that doesn't hurt my back or make me worry about every little bump. I actually prefer using XP most of the time, and I have really enjoyed finding little registry tweaks & add-ons to make it run better, use the limited screen space better, etc. Limitations inspire creativity.

I did a full week of research before I bought it, though, and I would argue that the Wind is by far the best netbook that was available at the time. The keyboard is damn-near full-sized (only a few smaller punctuation keys), it can be overclocked from the keyboard, I can triple-boot XP, Linux Mint, and OS X on it (as far as I know, this was the original Hackintosh model), I was able to add more RAM, it had a crazy long battery life before the battery started dying, and it is completely bombproof. There was even a big, active community when I needed support or wanted to see if somebody had already tried some harebrained scheme I came up with.

Seriously, other than the battery and the letters wearing off the keyboard, this thing is still about as good as new. The only things I can't do with it are playing multiple videos at the same time (it starts to stutter) or running ArcGIS. I'm not much of a gamer, and if I was into gaming I'm sure I would have outgrown it by now. For an academic type, though, netbooks really hit the sweet spot.
posted by dialetheia at 8:29 PM on December 31, 2012


My little Atom has been a godsend. It's small enough to travel with, sharp enough for my needs, mostly web and word processing, and it can handle a torrent just fine. It's more comfortable for my lean fingers to type on than an ipad. I too learned to touch type on a typewriter, in 1992, so I'm able to work at full speed most of the time, despite my usual hatred for lappie keyboards in general. It's genuinly lap sized. I can curl up on the couch with it and wedge it on my lap, the edge of the couch, a cushion, whatever, and still be able to see the rest of the room if I want to. It fits in every singe one of my purses and weighs less than most of my hardcover novels, and certainly less than basically every text book I've ever owned. It serves as a low-rent portable media server and it has the unique property of not being horrendously fucked over every time Windows updates. My main lappie (An Aspire V3 571 so monstrously large I haven't been able to find a decent laptop bag for it) throws a fit every time a new Windows update comes down and refuses to talk to my printer or my external hard drive, whereas the pared down system on the Atom just shrugs and gets on with life. It's starting to get a bit clunky - may need a cleanup - but other than that it's just the sweetest, easy little lappie I've had the pleasure of using.

And I love that it runs Windows 7. I've idly been contemplating whacking a Linux build on it, but since it seems to be the only common device round our house that can handle the printer I'm leaving it as is. I like having access to more than one program easily. I love running VCL behind Chrome, with the little control bar popping up at the bottom. I fucking despise the way my iPhone is so clunky when it comes to moving between open applications. Having a hidden task bar that pops up when required is really useful.

There is a huge market for people who need to be able to type quickly on a device with a decent screen, on a machine that is small enough to cram into a bag and that's cheap enough that it's not the end of the world if it goes for a walk. I'm astonished there's so much talk in this thread about how there's just no market for these things, even after reading all the testimonals.

It really is like buying a pair of shoes. Sometimes I want some tough, heavy boots with steel caps for heavy yard work, construction and the like. Other times I need thongs that I can just chuck on and amble down to the shop for a bottle of milk. Just because you need boots more often than not doesn't mean that the need for slip on shoes isn't there too.
posted by Jilder at 10:52 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hopefully someone will grow a clue and re-enter this market once they realize it actually is still a market.

Here's a reason to hope: HP Jornada 820. Introduced in 1998, about the size of a netbook with 10+ hours battery life. For reasons I can't begin to understand, it was discontinued around 2005. Fortunately, netbooks came into the world just a couple of years later.

I'm trusting the fates to see to it that there is something appropriate on the market when I need to replace my faithful Acer Aspire One.

(Still have my 820. In my 25+ years living with a PC, it's the only machine I've kept for sentimental reasons.)
posted by she's not there at 11:12 PM on December 31, 2012


There is an interesting response to the article called The Netbook isn't dead it's just sleeping that points out that small cheap ultrabooks will wind up covering some of the same ground.
posted by sien at 3:24 AM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, as someone who owns both an EEE and an iPad, typing on the iPad's screen is a goddamn breeze comparing to typing on a netbook keyboard that is sized for, I don't know, a goddamn lemur or something.

Huh. I was going to say I have loved the keyboard for all of my netbooks (currently on an Aspire One) - wrote on it almost all of law school, and did some asterisk programming on it after my macbook's screen broke.

But, yeah, lemur-hands.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:28 AM on January 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Netbooks were failing as a category before tablets took off. It's puzzling to me - who doesn't want a nice, light mini-computer that you can carry about on trips for about £200? This is probably why I don't work in product strategy.
posted by Summer at 9:37 AM on January 1, 2013


I type this comment on an Asus 1210PN netbook hooked up to a 27" monitor via HDMI and a cordless keyboard and mouse. I have Linux Mint on it with the very speedy LXDE desktop manager. I can watch seamless 1080p video on it (seriously, the Atom may not be a fast CPU, but the GPU flies). I can code on it. I can type on it without going insane. We take it on trips and the kids watch videos on it. The battery often lasts 6 hours without a charge. Basically, it's fucking great.

Netbooks didn't fail. Companies that aren't interested in anything but harnessing exponential growth curves and then fleeing fail.

Agree with the previous statement that ultrabooks will wind up covering the same ground-- Ultrabooks are basically expensive netbooks. They will get cheap, and then for a while people will buy them like crazy, and then they won't buy them quite as crazy, then those companies will abandon them. Lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:14 AM on January 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I loved the concept of netbooks (I bought an original EEE and then a later model, perhaps the 900; I also got an OLPC XO-1 the year that they sold them to the public) but for me the keyboards were too small to be comfortable (my hands are clearly not small). (and the OLPC keyboard had its own problems) Of course, the main attraction was a portable that didn't have a microsoft tax.

On my last trip, I took a Nexus 7 and a bluetooth keyboard (a fairly nice one, about 11" across, avoiding the worst compromises of key size and layout, and with a slight incline which I find is key to typing comfort) and it was fantastic. I could browse web just fine, and I could whip out the keyboard to compose a longer e-mail or for some connectbot action (though I had to invest about 10 hours of programming time pre-trip to improve connectbot's bluetooth keyboard support). I'd much rather pack this for a trip than a netbook, since it also turns into a tablet I can stick into my day bag. There are even starting to be IDEs so that you can develop Android apps right on your Android device, though they are pretty rudimentary so far.

On the other hand, a netbook is a great for a semi-embedded project like a jukebox (others have mentioned mame cabinets) since they are comparative power-sippers and some even run without fans, and it's no fuss at all to put server type software like ssh daemons and webservers on them. Android is not great for that use.
posted by jepler at 6:58 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


FYI, anyone worried about using LaTeX on the iPad (or Chromebook) I just worked out something this morning. There is an OSX app out there that compiles any .tex file in a given directory that has a changed timestamp but I've never gotten it running properly. I found a simple bash script that does the same thing, then changed it slightly to check all subdirectories. Using the iOS app Nebulous Lite I'm able to edit any .tex file in my Dropbox. When changes are synced my desktop runs pdflatex and spits out a PDF. Now I don't even need my laptop if I'm going to a conference and may need last minute changes to my Beamer presentations. MeMail me if you'd like the script.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:32 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I appear to be late to the party, but I'll add to the chorus of people saying that their 2008/2009-era EEEs are chugging along nicely. My wife got a new laptop earlier this year, so I inherited her EEE. And despite having a new tablet, I actually use the netbook regularly - as many people have also already mentioned, touchscreens are terrible for typing. Tablets are great for content consumption, but bad at content creation. That's where I think the netbook shines in comparison to a tablet. The only issue I've had with it, actually, is that the power cord started to wear out. I bought a new one for ~$15 on Amazon and it works just fine.

That said, some people above have said "good riddance" to netbooks. I'm pretty sure that is Acer's fault. It's like that company exists solely to confuse people who hear about how great Asus products are. I've not heard anything good about Acer, but the only bad mark in my book that I have against Asus is a DVD-RW drive I bought years ago that didn't last nearly as long as I thought it should before it crapped out.
posted by mysterpigg at 10:01 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chromebook Takes Top Place In Laptop Sales On Amazon
posted by Artw at 10:44 AM on January 2, 2013


Netbooks didn't fail. Companies that aren't interested in anything but harnessing exponential growth curves and then fleeing fail.

Quality and innovation might have helped. Tablet makers made the now oh-so-obvious decision to put decent screens in their kit and the market seems to have responded well to the "doesn't look like my screen was pulled out of a $20 portable DVD player" levels of quality.
posted by Talez at 11:00 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


After a bit of wandering yesterday, I'm probably going to buy one of the Asus F202 Vivobooks - low end touchscreen. Quite pretty, nice enough keyboard for typing while on the go and under $500AU.

The choice was made excruciatingly obvious when I went in to physically handle the machines. Sure, the 14 - 15" laptops have better specs but I am not hauling one of those around for 3 years worth of PhD. I am not eager to cripple myself. And yeah, the MacBook Air is pretty, and the ultrabooks are too, but at twice the price or more, for specs I am unlikely to even touch on (if I wanna game, and have the time, it'll be on my partner's desktop with better specs than any of them). It fills a niche and it's terribly annoying to see people assume they know better than the user what is needed. That I should sacrifice money, or comfort, to adhere to their standards.

Mind you, I'd love to stick an SSD in one of them.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:32 PM on January 2, 2013


Yeah, everyone is real stingy with the SSDs on sub $1000 stuff.
posted by Artw at 1:42 PM on January 2, 2013


Monkeymadness, basically you're saying you use your iPad for everything, except it's connecting to servers to actually do computing.

A netbook doesn't require a server for storage or execution. It costs a lot less than an iPad too.

Am I the only one who doesn't want a fucking touchscreen?
posted by hellslinger at 3:18 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, you're not.

A colleague had a touch screen laptop, a Lenovo I think, the kind that swivels. He gave a presentation to a small group and each time, someone or the other would forget it wasn't a regular laptop and reach out to point to a chart or slide.

Madness ensued.
posted by infini at 3:25 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


hellslinger: That's exactly what I'm saying. So what? I'm sharing my experiences using the iPad for productivity since I often hear people say they have trouble using it for productivity. If you don't want a touchscreen then by all means don't get one, but don't yell at me for using mine to get work done. I didn't say anything about netbooks. Talk about misplaced aggression.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:31 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I bought one of the Samsung netbooks about four years ago. About two years ago, I put in a small ssd---40G, I think---and copied over the existing hard drive. It made the machine feel three times as fast, dropped boot times below 15s and added at least an hour to the battery life.

One of my nieces has it now and I doubt you could remove it from her arms with a crowbar.
posted by bonehead at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, everyone is real stingy with the SSDs on sub $1000 stuff.

Heh, my SSD (a formerly-expensive 60G one bought before I sorted out my desktop / home media stuff) has gone through I think 3 laptops, 2 of which were shitty netbooks. Whenever I break one (travel/stupidity) I just pull the HD and put it in the new machine. I love it so much. Never going back to traditional drives on a laptop.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:21 AM on January 3, 2013


my SSD ... has gone through I think 3 laptops, 2 of which were shitty netbooks. Whenever I break one (travel/stupidity) I just pull the HD and put it in the new machine. I love it so much. Never going back to traditional drives on a laptop.
I love SSDs too, and have been using them exclusively now with my laptops since 2004. But I will tell you this. One day - I don't know when - it will simply stop working completely. SSDs don't have the often drawn-out failure process that HDDs seem to. They just work right up until the second when they don't work any more. That can be a surprising experience.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:22 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


monkeymadness, sorry if that seemed like it was directed toward you, it was more toward this current of ideas that goes against how I like to use a computer. I am probably one of the small minority of people who does not want a touchscreen, cloud, or app store. Farewell, netbooks.

I recently saw the youtube video of Steve Jobs keynote introducing the iPad. He claimed that it provided a better web browsing experience than a laptop, and I think most of its users agree. I think Vimperator, Pentadactyl, and Vimium make an efficient keyboard user's web browsing experience superior, however.
posted by hellslinger at 1:17 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the current trend in what operating systems and software support is non-local storage, app stores, non-user-servicable parts and locked platforms.

People say "If you don't like it, don't buy one", but that's the way the entire computer ecosystem seems to be inexorably headed- it's increasingly difficult to avoid.

I had no problem when advances in computers just meant that I was more empowered than I was before: When laptops started getting CD burners, or built-in wifi, or a proper multitasking kernel. My device was my device, and my data was my data.

The current trend of app stores, cloud storage, tabletization, and lockdown isn't empowering- it turns everyone into a consumer dependent on someone else for their device's continued functionality, and results in devices inferior at getting real work done, self-flagellating iPad LaTEXers aside.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:41 PM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ad hominem writes "I type everything completely wrong and let autocorrect sort it out."

But how do you play NetHack?
posted by Mitheral at 3:41 AM on January 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'll just chime in at the tail end of this discussion to lament the (slightly exaggerated) death of the netbook. I've used my Asus Eee for three years now, bought it used for less than USD 100. It's been around Europe in 4x4s and cars, doing duty as a navigation aid, trip journal, net browser and occasional provider of entertainment. It's damn-near indestructible. The only thing I don't like about it is the narrow keyboard (I've got big hands). I'll be sorry when it eventually will fail.
posted by Harald74 at 11:48 AM on January 7, 2013


Ooh, shiny.
posted by bonehead at 1:23 PM on January 7, 2013


The problem is that visible pixels look like a grid of goatses once you've gone Retina.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:34 PM on January 7, 2013


That's not something that is inherently excluded from the format.
posted by Mitheral at 2:09 PM on January 7, 2013


The problem is that visible pixels look like a grid of goatses once you've gone Retina.

The advantage of being almost 50 years old is that a cheap old-school display is a retina display.
posted by localroger at 3:55 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


« Older Trickmousing: mice doing tricks, being awesome....  |  Artistic SeaSnails build other... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments