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Forrester: Tablets To Outsell Netbooks By 2012

By now I’m sure you’re used to me quoting someone and telling you why they are wrong. Well, when I agree with someone I don’t see a reason to rehash what they say. But today I’m going to do just that.

Forrester research put out a press release in which the announced:

Despite an ongoing industry debate about how to define tablets, Forrester believes they should be classified as a form of personal computer. Tablet sales in the US will go from a modest 3.5 million units in 2010 to 20.4 million units in 2015, a 42 percent compound annual growth rate. Starting in 2012, tablets will outsell netbooks, and by 2014, more consumers will use tablets than use netbooks. In 2015, tablets will constitute 23 percent of PC unit sales.

I think they’re right, but not because of the sales figures. I think netbooks are dead as a product niche.

The netbook, as originally conceived, had a7″ screen, sub 1GHz CPU, and 1GB RAM. The problem with these specs is that no one really liked them. Common complaints were that the screen and keyboard were too small and that the CPU was to slow. The early models were quickly replaced with ones that had 9″ screens, then 10″, and then 12″ screen. I checked Amazon before writing this post, and the 9″ screens have died out as well. There’s only 1 manufacturer listed as producing a netbook with a 8.9″ screen; all the rest are 10″ and above.

I don’t see that the 10″ netbooks are really all that different from laptops. It’s really a matter of opinion as to whether a particular device is one or the other. And this is doubly true for the 12″ models. I have a 4 year old laptop that has much the same specs as a current netbook (I anticipated the trend). They called it a laptop then , but it would be a netbook now. The only difference is sematics.

Netbooks are a market niche that didn’t really serve a purpose, and had devices that no one really wanted to use. The netbook niche is dead. All that’s left now are low end laptops.

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