Remember back in 2009 when netbooks were selling like hotcakes? Well, those days are gone and now tablets are selling like hotcakes. It begs the question, naturally: are tablet sales cannabilizing netbook sales. The answer appears to be "yes" according to a new report by Canalys.
Canalys is projecting that every ten tablets that sell this year will translate to a loss of five netbook or notebook sales for the enterprise. Specifically, netbook sales are predicted to fall by 13% this year.
Put this together with a Gartner report from January that predicts 80% of all businesses will support workers who use tablets by 2013. That same report goes a step further anticipating 90% of all businesses will support corporate applications on employee tablets by 2014.
Folks, this isn't just a shift in the consumer market. That shift is evident and underway. We're talking about a major sea change in the work place. Gartner does not expect the tablet to replace the PC, but rather to suppliment it.
So where does the netbook fit into all of this? Quite frankly, it doesn't. Netbooks had their moment. But, I believe it has passed.
Netbooks filled a need when we wanted a cheap solution to get us by while waiting for Windows 7 and wanted to avoid Windows Vista.
Netbooks were the cheap alternative when we were in the darkest days of the recession and wanted to hold off on investing in a full-priced notebook or desktop.
Netbooks were a delightfully light weight alternative to our bigger, clunkier laptops, for checking email and accessing the web on the go. Now most of us have smartphones and many of us are investing in tablets that are even more delightful for accessing our stuff on the go.
Back in the late 1990's when I was producing computer help shows for ZDTV, we developed television programming for two kinds of tech enthusiasts; those that use computing devices as a tool and those that use it as a toy.
If I were still producing computer help shows for television (it would be for Hulu and not cable, first of all), it wouldn't be about tools vs. toys. It would be computing devices used for creating content (desktops and laptops) and those used for consuming content (smartphones, tablets and even eReaders).
When you look at it this way, consider where netbooks fit in. They don't. Netbooks are an inferior alternative to creating content on full-sized laptops. They are also an inferior alternative to the tablet for consuming digital media.
A year ago when the iPad launched, we all wondered whether the tablet would be able to create a space for itself between smartphones and traditional PCs (both desktops and laptops). It didn't have to. The netbook had already done that.
I believe sooner than later, the netbook will end up on the trash heap of history as the placeholder technology that got us by until the arrival of the tablet. It reminds me of the short-lived 8 track tape decks of the 70's that got us by until cassette decks became viable.
Last updated: Mar 18, 2011
RENEE ORICCHIO is a technology writer and former supervising news producer for CNN Financial News. She has been covering the computer industry since 1987. @oricchio