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Movement In The Small Computing Market

The iPad has shaken things up in the market between full blown computers and smartphones. The big loser may be the netbook, the once beloved tiny computing device that saw rapid growth even during the economic downturn. And where are the smartbook devices in all of this?

Ed Hansberry

May 7, 2010

2 Min Read

The iPad has shaken things up in the market between full blown computers and smartphones. The big loser may be the netbook, the once beloved tiny computing device that saw rapid growth even during the economic downturn. And where are the smartbook devices in all of this?Just a month after its launch, the WiFi equipped iPad sold 1,000,000 units. Sales are expected to be strong as some were holding out for the 3G enabled device, which has just started shipping.

Meanwhile, netbook sales are taking a dive. According to Fortune, netbooks enjoyed strong growth during 2009, as much as 641% year over year growth. That all changed in 2010 though. Growth slowed significantly and in April, growth was a meager 5%. Was this caused by the iPad? The growth started slowing in January, which was before the iPad was officially announced. It may just be a sign of the netbook market hitting saturation. At $250-$350, everyone that wanted one had probably already picked one up. Once the iPad launched though, it certainly didn't do the netbook market any favors.

And where is the smartbook? The smartbook is a device that falls between netbooks and smartphones. Initial versions will have ARM processors, so running desktop based x86 code is out of the question. They will run Linux, variants of Android or other embedded operating systems targeted at the ARM processor. They were first announced last year but have yet to ship. Engadget is saying that ARM has blamed Adobe for the delay because Flash 10.1 isn't ready yet. Yeah, whatever. I could be completely wrong, but I don't expect smartbook sales to take off even once they do ship. I think people either want a PC that can run programs they are familiar with on their desktop, which means a netbook is the entry point, or they will go with an iPad or other tablet device. Once you hook up a keyboard to a computing device, people expect a certain amount of productivity with it. Of course, you didn't read any of this here. We aren't allowed to use the word "smartbook" anymore.

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