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back to article Dear Ubuntu: The netbook is toast

In the tech industry today, and particularly in mobile, you can make lots of money as a premium innovator (Apple's iOS) or as a mass-market commoditizer (Google Android). But it turns out that there's little room for more than one company in either category, That's why Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and RIM are struggling to …

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Lot of down ratings

And yet it does make sense if you think about it.

Take away the 'me too' aspect of tablet computing, which may or may not go the way of the netbook, surely it makes sense for the company to focus on it's strengths?

If Canonical is to become as sucessful as it could be it needs to be relevant (not focussing on technology that is dying off) and it needs to look at how to monetise it's products (just what profit margin is there in a netbook or whatever build?)

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Happy

great little web servers

Great little web servers ... and as opposed to tablets, they have their own back support.

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Unhappy

It was a horrible article.

All the worse for being probably spot on.

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Silver badge

not really

I would still like to see what people actually use ipads for short of looking cools and reading books. Our company uses netbooks for our engineers. We have thousands of the things. They are small, lightweight, run for hours and have a keyboard on them. Engineers write reports, run technical manuals and can carry them around easy enough. Conventional USB sticks can be used to add more manuals - pdfs, exe updates for customers, tweaks can be perfomed on the netbooks before being copied to customers machines etc. ipads just wouldnt work, you simply cannot access files in the same way or type any sort of document on one.

netbooks arent being killed off, they were simply never "big" enough in the first place - they suit a purpose - same as an ipad.

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Anonymous Coward

Indeed

You raise a good point. I come at it from the opposite angle; once the novelty of the ipad / tablet wears off and people need to do some actual editing and writing / creating content, then the tablet needs a decent keyboard. Sure one can buy a wireless keyboard for an ipad/tablet, but I would not want to cart around an extra bit of kit. The answer is not in the traditional netbook which does not allow touch-screen and related GUI. The best answer that I have seen so far is the Dell Duo which hides the keyboard when used as a tablet, but then rotates to allow a full keyboard and screen. This will become the popular form of the future in my view.

So where does this all put Ubuntu? Well Android will not adequately exploit / support the Duo form in my humble view, whereas Ubuntu is not quite there yet for supporting tablets.

Another problem with Ubuntu is the lack of real-world inclusion of proprietory software and codecs and which distributions such as Linux Mint have taken Ubuntu and "fixed it" in this respect to basically work out of the box unlike Ubuntu. So Ubuntu have the potential to provide "Duo" solution that everyone will like, but I don't think they will, and instead probably Google will improve Android to fill this gap...whilst leaving Google haters such as myself without a solution and I'll probably fall back to the lesser of 2 evils and use MS 8 / 9 / tablet or whatever vrsion they will fudge and churn out.

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How about

iMS20

TouchOSC

GarageBand

EyeTV

iPhoto

and so on..

To name a few. It also makes a pretty good web browser, so long as your idea of the web isn't playing stupid Flash games.

As I have the 3G version I can use it with Navigon as a GPS, the advantage being the battery life is good so no wires for a charger and the screen is big. Plus you can look things up on the web too.

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@Danny 14

Agreed. I have just bought a tablet and am wondering what its role is. It can be used for reading mail, but even that job is done better on the PC. As for sending mail, forget it. Entering text is so burdensome as to put most jobs out of the tablet's reach.

Still, I only bought it for surfing, and it is okay for that. But slower than the PC, and with a smaller screen.

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Both worlds

I always liked the idea of an iPad, but though the device was too limited, for many of the reasons stated here, USB, proper file access etc.

I've also owned a Netbook, which was too small for serious use, and no touch screen.

I recently bought an Asus Eee Pad Transformer, with the keyboard dock. So I now have a decent 10.1 screen, I can carry it around like a Tablet, with 8 hours of active use, toucjh screen etc. So perfect for web browsing, checking emails etc. and instant on of course.

But also pop it into the dock, and so it essentially becomes a Netbook, with proper USB sockets, and also an additional 8 hours of usage (so 16 in total). It also closes properly, so it's not just a dock, but a real part of the device, so really is a Netbook in this mode.

The only real issue is lack of Tablet specific Android productivity apps atm. But this is coming, there are already several MS office compatible apps around, including one pre-installed for free. Open Office is on it's way. So this will eventually become a proper Netbook.

So far it gets used almost every day, my Laptop only gets booted up occasionally now to do my finances (in Open Office).

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Anonymous Coward

not comparable

tablet sales are still far far lower than netbook sales were at the equivalent point in their life

When tablets first came out there was Apple tablets and, er, nothing else.

When netbooks came out there were plenty of makes to choose from and none were from Apple iOverpriced.

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FAIL

Reg Fail...

...for once. Normally I'm not one of the anti-Reg whiners, but 'clobbered by Apple's iPad'? Seriously? Different price point (£250 vs £500 minimum), for different purposes (mobile tech support etc vs media consumption & minor emailing).

I've never believed El Reg has anything like an 'agenda' but with each new netbook putdown I start to wonder...

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Linux

...as far as elgato goes.

EyeTV? Are you kidding?

This is the best example of trying to shoehorn something onto a tablet that clearly doesn't belong there. This is something that really belongs on a proper TV. Attempting to do this on a tablet actually leads to an inferior experience in all respects.

The fact that Elgato has to go out of it's way to accomodate the iPad also handily demonstrates the inherent limitations of the iPad itself. It simply doesn't have the mojo to cope with real Elgato recordings. Elgato has had to implement a bit of a hack just to make EyeTV on the iPad even work.

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I'm curious about this whole netbook decline thing

I know a lot of people that have bought them very recently and quite a few people that have iPads and have then gone on to buy a netbook as well because the iPad doesn't deliver everything that they need.

I realise that one persons observations do not define the market trend but it just seems odd that people I know, even fairly distantly, seem to be getting more interested in netbooks than less interested.

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Bronze badge
Happy

I'm still buying netbooks for clients...

...who also have laptops, and in at least one case an iPad too. One of my customers has an office extension, and when she knocks off each evening she sits in the lounge using GoToMyPC (I know, I know, I wouldn't touch it myself) on her new netbook to drive all her not-easily-ported apps (she's a workaholic). And she can of course do this when she has to go up town to London on business.

So many uses...

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"Canonical now has the Unity interface,

which positions the company for the mobile world. It's well done and cool."

No it isn't.

It proves the unified UI across devices is still a distant dream.

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Unity dosen't unify

Unity is unfinished. It has crashed on every machine I have installed it on.

If Canonical is so full of "talented people" why didn’t one of them say "hey lets learn from the KDE 4 disaster where KDE developers alienated many users by releasing unfinished unstable code" .

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Linux

Re: Unity dosen't unify

"hey lets learn from the KDE 4 disaster where KDE developers alienated many users by releasing unfinished unstable code" .

As a side point, the KDE issue is a very mixed bag. The open source mantra is "release early and release often". KDE stayed with that allowing more people to work on , test and providing feedback for KDE 4. The failure happened when several distributions started shipping it as the default desktop or the default (and often only) KDE version.

Seems the Ubuntu lot may have done the same with Unity.

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Linux

Re: Unity dosen't unify

That's interesting. It hasn't crashed once on any of my computers, and that includes a 4,5 year old laptop and a two year old netbook.

Sure, it has it's limitations (like Alt-F2 not working the way i want it), but overall it provides a pleasant experience.

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Devil

Grains of salt

Weeeell... we'll see. I understand that a developer of mobile apps wants to up the importance of mobile phone OSes, but the notion that desktop and laptops are being pressured by the tablets is a stand that IDC has been pushing for a good while, and has been almost alone in even among their brothers of sensationalist market researchers. Even that the netbooks fall in sales are being caused by tablets is far from an established truth. There might be some core markets where image building, coverage and pricing are strong enough to support a cloud-backed tablet computing future, but inner city NYC, London and Stockholm won't define a new computing era just yet.

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Devil

You are missing the point

It is the natural niche of Linux to be the final resting place for old kit.

Netbooks fading fast? So what? Excellent, that actually will _INCREASE_ Ubuntu and Debian market share in this segment and the overall market share.

My main work laptop is a 2002 Powerbook G4 and the spare is a 2005 HP NC 4000. They would have been unusable if I tried to put the last supported MacOSX or Windoze on them. They are perfectly usable under Linux for most of the time. The G4 winds me up occasionally by taking a nap when dealing with eCrypts $HOME directory encryption, but otherwise it is still good to go today 10 years after it left the factory assembly line. With a new battery, disk and stuffed with memory to the gills it will hopefully last for 2-3 more years winding up both Mac and Windows fans in the process.

It is the real niche of Linux - to be the Cinderella of the Desktop OSes. It gets to shine on few occasions when the fairy god mother has decided to be nice and provide it with a ride for the night. However this is once in a blue moon. The rest of the time it is cleaning dishes, mopping floors and doing all the stuff that the wizzy new kit does not do.

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Windows

Made me chuckle...

...seeing 'Ubuntu Software Centre' and 'old hardware' in the same thread.

As I warm my feet on my trusty T30, I contemplate which language the app. is written in. Slow enough to be basic, python, or similar interpreted stuff. Still, why complain? When I fire it up on said lappy, gives me time for a ciggie before it lets me do anything useful.

Oh, well. One day the unemployment office'll cock-up and accidentally give me money for a bit more RAM. Then I might stop using the command line for speed....

(Love the Windows User Icon. It's obviously a tramp drinking tramp-juice (i.e., Tennants Extra).

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Reading fail

"Netbooks fading fast? So what? Excellent, that actually will _INCREASE_ Ubuntu and Debian market share in this segment and the overall market share."

The second part of that sentence makes no sense whatsoever --- if the notebook segment fades fast, it is implicit that overal market share will go down --- but the first part was described in the article, or do you have to go look up what "pyrhhic victory" means?

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Facepalm

sigh

That's what's known as "the use I put a thing to is the only use anyone else could possibly use it for" argument. It's not an argument, it's called "projection".

Linux is good for people who give a damn about ethics and rights.

It also happens to be quite useful on old hardware.

And as a server.

And for programmers.

And for those who get bored easily and wish to explore.

And for contrarians.

Etc.

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Different Specialisations.

There are things which iPads and their ilk are not much good for, without careful spending on extras.

I've written novel-length works on a netbook, with no need to buy any extras. They come with this ingenious device called a keyboard.

It's the line between the netbook and the cheap laptop which has blurred. But an Ubuntu version able to run on a low-power PC, doing useful work, is hardly a dead end.

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FAIL

Unity

"Canonical now has the Unity interface, which positions the company for the mobile world. It's well done and cool."

Which it is now pushing onto desktop users. Having a multi-screen, multiple-core system act like a toy netbook is great fun.

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Coat

RE: Unity

...and to reply to my own post. I didn't mean to sound disparaging towards netbooks ... I'm just fed up with trying to report Unity bugs, only to find out that they are features.

\begin{warning_rant_you_may_want_to_ignore}

I'm thinking specifically of not being able to reposition the launcher. Mark Shuttleworth says no.

On my system this has the amusing affect of positioning the launcher on the left of my main screen. With my secondary screen to the left, this means that the launcher is in the middle of my combined screen space. To top it all, if I set the launcher to auto-hide, I have to move the cursor all the way over to the left of my secondary screen. I assume this is a bug, and not a feature, but I'm not convinced ;-)

Sorry for the rant

\end{/warning_rant_you_may_want_to_ignore}

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Netbooks

I'm using Ubuntu on a netbook now, and have done for a few years. I won't ever go back to Windows, given a choice.

However, the Ubuntu experience is not without its problems (notably a seeming inability to provide consistent drivers for wireless & wired network interfaces - or to strong-arm the manufacturers into providing them).

I put up with them because it is free and I know I can scrap Ubuntu and move over to, say Fedora, if it gets too hard. But, given that I'm not wedded to Ubuntu, I'm loath to consider potentially wasting money on applications that I might have to discard. If my experience is shared by too many others, then it is unlikely that there will ever be much of a market for 3rd party products that require paying for.

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Netbook Toast?

W8 on Arm?

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FAIL

Reports of my death...

Way off course - but then someone whose business is developing mobile apps would tend to suggest that tablets/smartphones are the future.

Tablets are a neat idea - I can think of a few situations when they'd be really useful. But there are also situations where they're no use whatsoever.

I have my trusty Aspire One, and it's excellent - because is has a KEYBOARD and REAL PROGRAMS like OpenOffice. With a big battery I get seven hours out of it and it's SMALL and very portable and CHEAP. A proper netbook has a definite place - at one end I have my main laptop - heavy-duty web development machine, expensive, powerful and heavy - works best at a desk when tied to a big monitor, real mouse and proper keyboard.not something I want to risk taking out and about too often. Other end there's a smartphone - handy for quick things, looking up train times, news, bit of e-mail when out and about (and within range of a signal), and general odds-and-sods. Somewhere in-between there's a tablet - handy for watching a DVD (well, so long as it's not actually on a physical DVD of course), and a bit of casual surfing, or even reading a book (although a kindle is better). And then there's a netbook - small, cheap, real computers that you CAN take on the beach or on a train and do some serious work on - like writing an essay or a novel, fiddling with a Powerpoint or a spreadsheet, even a bit of web development - how do you do THAT on a tablet (without lugging along an external keyboard)?

Nope, I'll hold off replacing my very functional and practical and cheap Linux netbook with an expensive and not-very-functional tablet for a while yet.

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WTF?

fading fast?

Netbooks are far from fading fast; I know plenty of people using them very happily, particularly recent incarnations e.g Asus eee 1015PX. The issue is that lots of people went out and got a netbook, and majority of people who they are a fit for have one now, so demand will always slow a little after the initial burst.

Tablet is latest fad, nothing more; like all devices it has its market. Doesn't quite fill same space as netbook. Lack of usable keyboard; 10" netbook is easily usable for typing for longish periods, whereas tablet isn't.

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Meh

But this is the manufacturers talking

They are not interested in the netbook they sold yesterday. That's history. They are looking at the one they may not sell tomorrow.

I'm still happy with what my EeePC701 can do running Ubuntu. I'm just a bit worried where I can get a replacement battery when it dies!

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WTF?

What?

"Netbooks were a promising new market until Apple clobbered them with the iPad"

Netbooks were well and truly dead well before then, they were clobbered because they threatened the interests of Microsoft and Intel.

First up though, it didn't help that Asus picked a turkey OS for their first eeepc choosing to load it with a totally borked Xandros installation. That poor choice led to early adopters rushing to load a different OS on to the device en masse.

Then, when MS decided that all netbooks must come with Windows pre loaded, netbooks suddenly needed big, spinning hard disks, multiple gigabytes of RAM and a big enough battery to run it all on. They were then priced accordingly.

Intel helped as well by decreeing that atom based PC's couldn't have a resolution over 1024 x 600 (or some such) to ensure that netbooks didn't encroach on the bloated overpriced laptop market.

By the time the ipad came along punters were already wondering why they should spend $800 on a dinky netbook when they could buy an end of life model laptop for significantly *less*.

3 Years on and look at the netbook market. All the netbooks are the same models as for the preceeding 3 years and none of them have dropped in price.

Apple might have come along with an attractive product, but the PC OEMs had already shot themselves in the foot long before.

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Linux

Re: What?

"Apple might have come along with an attractive product, but the PC OEMs had already shot themselves in the foot long before."

Or as you wrote earlier, Microsoft and Intel shot them in the foot. They helpfully kept their feet still while Microsoft in particular took aim.

Hopefully the netbook vendors will unbundle Microsoft from now on: by switching to ARM (and having AMD a bit more active in the space to undermine Intel's influence), vendors like Asus have a fair amount of time to show Microsoft the finger.

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Stop

@ Goat Jam: erm...?

In the first place, netbooks in the UK have never shifted in price from the mid-£200s. That should be no more than $500, tops. Where the heck did $800 come from? Sure, I've seen Sony VAIO netbooks in PC World for over £600 ($1000?), but that's just plain crackers!

Secondly, it was Microsoft that mandated the 600 pixel vertical limit in return for which they would drop the Windows license to around $25-$30 per unit to help manufacturers keep netbooks at a distinctly lower price than laptops.

It's never been "Do I buy an iPad or a netbook?". They are, as many posters here have been saying, quite different things and priced very differently.

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Netbooks never had a market

Netbooks were created because low margin small cheap computers were eating the high margin laptop market. None of the established laptop makers and distributors want SCC's in Europe or the US.

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Thumb Down

Are you kidding?

"Netbooks were a promising new market until Apple clobbered them with the iPad."

Bite your tongue!

I can do NOTHING with an iPad1,2 anything.

In fact, for the past couple of years, I've almost exclusively been working on a netbook.

An upgrade is coming fast though, as I have some video work that the netbook is obviously too slow for, but aside from that there is NOTHING that an iPad can give me that I don't have now.

In fact, it'll PREVENT me from doing a lot of what I'm doing now.

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Happy

Horses (or Golfers) for Courses

If you offered a golfer just one club to play a round with, it would not sit well with them.

A nice bag of assorted clubs would be what is required for the varied shots.

Likewise, I have a selection of computers which are used for different purposes.

Starting at the top there could be a CRAY with N2 cooling...I don't need that right now !

At the bottom, I have a PDA about 6-7 years old...still very useful.

All manner of other computers are available for various jobs..most are capable of

duplicating the day to day tasks but some are more equal to tasks than others.

When out and about the Netbook covers my requirements in an adequate manner.

With a 160 gb HDD and 2gb RAM, it is far more than I need but the trade offs to buy a Tablet

are yet to be perceived to make much sense.

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FAIL

sorry....what is the point of this ramble?

Sooooooo, this article is basically a failed executive mumbling about the failed company that he used to work for? Why is this news? Canonical are a tiny, irrelevant little company that 99.9999% of the worlds population have never heard of (and never will). Weird article…………….

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Its done, its cool?

Well, he may have been at Cononical - but he seems as deluded as many there seem to be regarding Unity. But he is right I guess, having made the desktop unusable, broken, and unpleasant, and unconfigurable, maybe its best to move of to do cloud based offerings.

Linux on the desktop until recent times seems to me to have made steady progress. But everything in recent times is utterly depressing, and enough to drive me off it as a desktop in totaility. Neither Gnome 3 or Unity are fit for desktop use, and they all seem to have gone tablet crazy, even though they are not on tablets, but being jammed onto desktops.

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I'm an old fuddy duddy

I think it's been downhill for linux since Gnome & KDE first arrived. Back in olden days when kernels were small and window managers fast it was easy to setup a reliable LINUX system. KDE, Gnome and friends all need to get off my lawn.

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Anonymous Coward

A most useful piece of kit.

My netbook runs Ubuntu, has 2GB of RAM and is just about the most useful piece of mobile computing equipment I have purchased. I can run real world apps and development software. It's small and portable, so much so that it can be used in the cheap seats on planes and trains. It is small enough to carry around on a daily basis.

If they are dying a death, then it must be fashion related

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Go

"community enthusiasm for Ubuntu"

All 17 of them?

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Facepalm

What makes a tablet a tablet?

Not having a keyboard. Was there a huge pent-up resentment about keyboards? No. An all solid-state netbook with a good display and good connectivity could still be a winner. All the advantages of an iPad, lower cost, and you could actually DO things with it.

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Content free puff piece

What you do is prune the puff , blatant self advertising and inaccuracies and see whats left.

This article is content free and even worse is horrifically inaccurate.

Please stick author bylines on the front page so we can avoid the industry puff pieces.

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Anonymous Coward

@Jacqui

"Open and Shut" on the byline means it's written by Matt Asay and that means it's likely to be as irritating and uninformed as this one was.

HTH

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Mushroom

What are you calling a netbook?

"Netbooks were a promising new market until Apple clobbered them with the iPad."

I've just googled for iPad prices. They start at about twice the price of a netbook and go upwards. Amongst innumerate posers, that may count as "clobbering", but for the rest of us the iPad isn't even on the same page.

What clobbered netbooks was Microsoft turning round to the manufacturers and telling them that they'd lose their cheap OEM licences on the rest of their range if they didn't stop selling attractive devices that Windows was too bloated to run on.

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Oh dear

Why is it that whenever a new development comes along, the "real techies" always throw around stuff like your "innumerate posers" comment? I'm old enough to remember the same being said about people who used GUIs rather than DOS, mice rather than just a keyboard, and laptops rather than "real" PCs.

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