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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  1. David Neil

    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?)

    1. BrentRBrian
      Happy

      great little web servers

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

    2. Marvin the Martian
      Unhappy

      It was a horrible article.

      All the worse for being probably spot on.

  2. Neil Milner-Harris

    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.

  3. Danny 14 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.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    3. Giles Jones Gold badge

      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.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      2. JEDIDIAH
        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.

    4. Jim 59

      @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.

    5. Mark Boothroyd

      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).

    6. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

    7. Blitterbug
      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...

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    8. Blitterbug
      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...

  4. david 63

    "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.

    1. Smudge@mcr

      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" .

      1. Bakunin
        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.

      2. Martijn Otto
        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.

  5. TomasF
    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.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Andus McCoatover
      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).

    2. Marvin the Martian

      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?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  7. Cheese
    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.

  8. Dave Bell

    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.

    1. Cheese
      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}

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Netbook Toast?

    W8 on Arm?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

  11. Pen-y-gors Silver badge
    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.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
      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!

  13. MS Rocks
    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…………….

  14. John Tserkezis
    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.

  15. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    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.

  16. Goat Jam
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    2. Tony Rogers
      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.

    3. Blitterbug
      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.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    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

  18. DS 1

    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.

    1. cloudgazer

      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.

  19. Doug Glass
    Go

    "community enthusiasm for Ubuntu"

    All 17 of them?

  20. Jacqui

    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.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  22. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      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.

  23. Luke McCarthy

    Netbook and notbooks

    The real competition for netbooks is smaller laptops becoming cheaper. Is AMD Fusion a laptop or netbook platform? Who cares? It's a distinction which is disappearing with technology.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows 8

    I'm looking forward to Windows 8 then I can use whatever I like with the same operating system everywhere, but the problems with input on tablets will still be present, i.e. lack of proper keyboard.

    Lack of keyboard on a phone seems less problematic. Apart from playing angry birds and watching youtube i can't really see the point in a tablet device which can't even stand itself upright - at least you can rest a laptop/netbook on your lap and have two hands free for typing and stroking the dog/girlfriend/whatever u want to enter here.

    =)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    meh - are we really that interested?

    I'll be honest and say I don't give a monkeys what Canonical does.

    I use Xubuntu - and if Canonical were to vanish overnight, I doubt it would make much difference in the long run. Just pick up on Debian again.

    Ubuntu is famed for being *one* of the ... more? user friendly Linux distributions out there. They've got some marketing savvy, made a wise choice basing it on Debian and have some exceptionally talented devs.

    But there's also Mandrake, Suse, CentOs, Mint ... etc.

    If Ubuntu goes off into the cloud, could I care less?

    Nope.

    They've already lost me on the desktop - Unity made me switch to Xubuntu, so I'm already using a fork of the core product. It'll be no great shakes to just run Debian and spend an extra few hours setting it up to run.... *exactly* the same.

    As for netbooks - never suited me, too small, don't care. I'd rather outlay a little more on a smallish notebook or laptop, get a decent size screen and keyboard. It's not that much of a bind to carry.

    Tablets? - neat, but haven't seen the need for one, got my desire with cyanogenmod on it, that'll do me. Kindle for reading = sorted.

  26. sherbey

    netbooks are small laptops

    Netbooks were and still are just small cheap laptops. Originally with flash storage, which I thought at the time was a very good idea and still do - but apart from the macbook air I don't see lots of ultra-small lappies kicking about.

    The ipad is in a niche alone at the moment; touchscreen devices are good for surfing or viewing with small ammounts of input. When you can speak to it it'll kill computers off but not until.

    1. goats in pajamas
      Facepalm

      In reality

      When you can speak to it it'll kill computers off but not until.

      When you can speak to it public spaces will become intolerable.

      It's bad enough having to listen to halfwits shouting into their mobile phones without more halfwits shouting at their iPads as well.

  27. Wile E. Veteran
    Linux

    I've always seen tablets

    in the context of vertical markets. Field engineers, medical personnel making their rounds and connected to the hospital/clinic central database (which might itself be connected to a larger database, or even Watson). Nurses, paramedics (whose tablets are loaded more with reference material than applications as such. Automobile insurance adjusters. Quality-control and inventory (shipping and receiving) clerks. You get the picture. A very portable device set up to perform one task well,, tapping into external data when/where necessary.

    Built on Ubuntu? Why not? Built on iOS? The same. Windows 8? Ditto.

    It's not the freakin' OS that counts, its the APPLICATIONS and not trying to be all things to all people. Netbooks are great as a lightweight laptop replacement where heavy text/numeric entry is involved. For special-purpose applications, go tablet (and I don't care which one or which OS as long as it's reliable and has good communication facilities).

    (BTW this old ACER laptop is running Xubuntu-the most pleasant OS I've used yet)

  28. Jim 59

    Voice

    Tablets would come into their own if voice control become a reality. In the meantime, not having a keyboard is just too high a penalty. You just can't interact with a tablet.

    1. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      It's all about the app....

      It's all about the Apps, and this is where I think the original rant was totally off base. He seemed to be thinking that dressing up the Debian package manager would magically attract developers as if he were drawing the wrong lessons from Apple's recent successes. Apps require developers and courting developers and supporting developers. Dressing up your package manager isn't going to make much difference. You've got to court the developers or otherwise encourage them to build for your platform.

      Apple has some very well established developer networks. So does Microsoft. It's not clear that Canonical has ever tried to replicate this in any meaningful way.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    netbook is passee?

    I dont think so - netbooks outperform tablets and are much easier to use - if you actually have to write anything! I have just gotten one and I'm very pleased that I won't have to lug my heavy laptop anymore..

  30. El Cid Campeador
    Go

    It depends on who you are....

    The point that's being missed is that the average user has been paying way too much for hardware and software he has no use for... partly because of software bloat/planned obsolescence and partly because there was nothing else out there. Why in the name of all that's holy should someone who wants to send the occasional email, expose his life on Facebook, look at cute pictures, and play the occasional Flash game shell out for a multicore system with gigabytes of RAM and terabytes of storage? I have several friends in that category who were going to "have" to buy new systems because their versions of Windows were so far behind the power curve they could no longer handle even these simple tasks... I talked them into trying Mint/Ubuntu and hey presto, they were good to go. What the smartphone/tablet/netbook offerings do is give these users OPTIONS that do not involve a fully-featured PC/laptop... and there's nothing wrong with that. All three of the "lesser" options are right for certain people's needs.

    For myself personally, given what I do, I prefer a full desktop (with Mint) for serious work and a netbook (with pre-Unity Ubuntu Netbook edition) for working away from my desk since I really need a keyboard... but I would never insist that it's right for anybody in particular until I've checked into what they actually do with their systems.....

  31. doperative
    Linux

    article doesn't make sense

    As always Matt Asay offers his own unique perspective on the tech industry. I can't say if I agree with or even understand most of his propositions.

    "That's why Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and RIM are struggling to compete with Apple, while Canonical, MeeGo, and others are falling behind Google"

    In your opening paragraph, you disect the market into "premium innovator" "mass-market commoditizer", yet have Microsoft competing against Apple in the "premium innovator" selection. If there ever was a "mass-market commoditizer" it was Microsoft. And why isn't Canonical not competing against Apple. in what particular sense is Canonical falling behind Google. What specific markets do they both compete or not compete in. The rest of your article, I can't make sense of ..

    http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2011/01/10-ubuntu-tablet-gets-priced-specd-and-demoed/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: article doesn't make sense

      Glad to know I'm not the only one. At least this column, judging by the few times I have opened it, seems to be rock solid consistent (ahem).

      Mind you, there are some informative comments in this article's comments section.

  32. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Is it better with Windows?

    Interesting take. (Probably get downvoted by all El Reg. staff, but...):

    http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2075819/asus-preload-ubuntu-linux-eee-pcs.

    What I can't understand is why no-one at El Reg has delved into the switch from Linux to Windows more deeply. The switch back (above link) makes me suspicious, and believe there's some shenanigans going on.

    Xandros was horrid, but my missus likes it. Bought her a '701 three years ago, and she hasn't told me she hates Xandros. Might have something to do with the fact it's been powered on for approx. 3 hours in its entire life...should've bought her a bloody abacus.

    I don't go far without my 701. Easypeasy saved the day. It would definitely have been gathering dust otherwise. Nowadays, it's an essential tool.

    Icon, 'cos that's what I look like/am doing at the mo'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it better with Windows?

      Thank you for posting that link. I have found it very interesting, as I am starting to look (not very hard though) for another netbook to replace my 701.

      Except for the smallish screen and the recalcitrant space key I'm very happy with it--I did get rid of Xandros after about a week, it's been running Debian + KDE since then, but hardware-wise, Asus seem to be the best player out there right now.

      Very though too. My 701 has so far survived two major, YouTube-worthy bicycle mishaps with far less consequences than I have. I just don't want to push my luck too far, hence why I want to pre-emptively buy a spare machine :)

      Anyway, it is really good news that they're shipping Linux pre-installed machines again and I'll definitely buy one or two of those. I wonder if any of the newer models come with solid state drives (not that big a deal, as I can keep /home in a removable SD card). The better vibration and shock protection afforded by SSDs is important to me, however, as is the lighter weight.

      One incidental point to note is that Linux or BSD based installations (well, many but not all of them) are perhaps the only software that can come preloaded on a PC type computer without putting the vendor in the legally dubious position of making the sale conditional on the buyer entering into a (theoretically) binding agreement with a third party.

      This is so because a distribution that includes only FOSS components _does not require the user to accept any kind of licence_ (e.g., acceptance of the GPL is not necessary to use the software, so long as you do not exercise any of the GPL-specific rights such as modification and redistribution). I have never had the chance to get the validity of this tested in court because so far all the vendors I have used have agreed not to include the O/S in the sale in the first place (if buying a preloaded machine, they peel off the windows sticker with the serial number, or just leave it and give me a discount equivalent to the price of an OEM Windows licence).

  33. SpaMster
    WTF?

    Questionable

    I didnt realise they'd sold more ipads than netbooks?!?

    To say the IPad has killed the netbook is a little crazy imo, i know a lot more people who own netbooks than have ipads

    1. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      A case of wishful thinking...

      I think it's just a case of wishful thinking. There are seeming a large and diverse group of people that want netbooks to fail and for them to be wiped away by the iPad or other tablets. It seems like they keep on repeating this idea in the hope that if they repeat it enough that it will actually come true.

    2. asdf Silver badge
      FAIL

      old trend meet new trend

      Too bad the cheapo chinese crap netbooks won't last until they go obsolete and people may actually start looking to tablets instead. Intel chips are garbage on the low end anyway which is why they are almost absent from tablet market. Long live ARM!

  34. asdf Silver badge
    WTF?

    guessing most commenters dont own tablet

    I had a Samsung NC10 which was a great little notebook until the warranty expired and an obvious video cable design flaw (probably done on purpose) caused my $500 to go down the toilet. Not an Appletard but have to say so far very impressed with my ipad 2 (im at least one person who bought tablet instead of netbook replacement). It does serve a slightly different role but at least it will last longer than a year.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not going to happen in the current models...

    Linux on a desktop? I don't see that happening unless they manage to change the support model somehow. Not everyone is looking forward to being forced to upgrade to something new and different (think different desktops, other GUI's, etc) in a relative short timespan (1 - 1.5 years).

    Even Ubuntu only manages to maintain a distribution for 3 year tops (LTS). Which immediately comes with another downside: because you're upgrading across several versions at the same time its very likely that you won't fully succeed with an upgrade and have to re-install to get the best result.. So starting off from scratch.

    Not claiming that it can't be done at all. But with the current model I don't see it working for the average "John Doe".

  36. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Apples v Candy Floss

    The netbooks are the Apples.

    Mine is in daily use, and I mean USE. It is a working tool that - along with various USB cables and an optical mouse - lives in a recycled sandwich cooler-bag and gets chucked in the back of the car every time I have to work on-site.

    1. doperative
      Alien

      Linux on a desktop?

      @ShelLuser: Not going to happen in the current models... #

      Posted Tuesday 7th June 2011 20:23 GMT

      > Linux on a desktop? I don't see that happening unless they manage to change the support model somehow .. the current model I don't see it working for the average "John Doe".

      Look it, I've been using the same portable Lubuntu distro since it came out and no one is forcing me to change. Linux on a desktop has already happened. All people have to do is download or get a copy off a magazine and try it out for themselves ..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not going to happen in the current models...

      I do believe you misunderstand not just the Linux-centric support model, but that of the other O/Ses too.

      According to people such as gkh, "Long-term support" versions of any O/S, including Linux and Windows, are essentially a marketing gimmick in response to largely illusory "needs" from management. While he is not impartial, having a vested interest on people always running the latest kernels, he did seem very convincing on this particular aspect.

      As for the Linux distros I'm most familiar with (OpenSUSE and Debian), they do a superb job of maintaining continuity between upgrades. In fact, it took me a couple of days to notice that my Debian netbook had upgraded itself from Lenny to Wheezy :)

      On the server side, upgrading some production servers from Etch (I know!) to Wheezy was no less of a breeze (although a deliberate action in this case).

      Similarly OpenSUSE desktops were upgraded from 11.1 and 11.2 to 11.3 and finally to 11.4 without ever requiring any form of reinstallation or any significant administrative intervention.

  37. Tralala
    Megaphone

    oh god oh god oh god but thanks

    you are right, there were a lot of ubuntu fanatics. It was quite unpleasant. They made a lot of noise.

    They went away to fanatic about something else. They are done. They are not coming back.

    Ubuntu was never friendly, it was not easy, it was not coool.

    It's too locked down to be a consumer/geek friendly netbook thingie

    I mean, how do I get a widget on the desktop?

    Even an icon perhaps? No? Change the taskbar?

    If you wanted the desktop then you canoncomical people lost the plot about four years ago.

    Just do secure server computing or something like that. whatever

    and as above said we don't really care, if we ever did believe the hype..

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Netbooks? Why not simply go for the Smartphones

    Smartphones (potentially with a pico-projector and a foldable keyboard) may keep rising in popularity and specs. Soon a 2 or 4 gig RAM phone should allow booting a slightly modified Ubuntu. Android's nice, but Ubuntu could do well too.

  39. bastardwizard

    Interesting article

    The Linux Action Show guys cited this.

    http://www.jupiterbroadcasting.com/9341/pinguy-os-review-las-s17e03/

    I do agree that the netbook is on its way out. However, the day that tablets overtake the niche currently occupied by netbooks is a couple years off. Tablets have to overcome some connectivity, compatibility, and performance problems. They also are not upgradable and do not have replaceable parts (not to mention, they're not all that durable as a certain relative of mine likes to prove.) Until the price of tablets drops enough to both compete with netbooks and make them a better value; and until tablets can replace netbooks in terms of functionality, then netbooks will retain their market share, niche as it is.

    That aside, Canonical should not put as much work toward them. Yay for the Asus deal,but I'll be impressed when I start seeing Ubuntu as an option on upper-tier kit. (Even Dell only puts it on bottom-of-the-barrel laptops.)

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