We all knew this day was coming. Netbooks had their time in the limelight a few years ago, but that was before Apple (NAS: AAPL) squashed them in their formative years with the iPad. In one sentence, Steve Jobs' described, in a simplistic way that only he could, the reason netbooks were doomed: "Netbooks aren't better at anything."

That didn't stop domestic PC makers, including Dell (NAS: DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) , and foreign manufacturers, such as Lenovo, Acer, and Asus, from putting up a fight. The second quarter of 2011 marked the first time global tablet shipments surpassed netbook shipments.

According to market research firm ABI Research, second-quarter tablet shipments jumped to 13.6 million units, while netbook shipments shrank to 7.3 million. Compare those figures with the first quarter, when 6.4 million tablets and 8.4 million netbooks moved. Netbook sales are plummeting while tablet sales roar forward.

Well, one of the big netbook players has now officially dropped out of the consumer netbook game: Dell. Its line of Inspiron Minis is joining the dodo as an awkward creation not meant for the land of the living. Instead, Dell is now focusing on higher-end thin and powerful laptops, saying "thin and powerful is where it is at for us," as Intel (NAS: INTC) continues to push its Ultrabook designs. Ultrabooks are Intel's response to Apple's incredibly popular revamped MacBook Air lineup.

HP is still selling netbooks, which is surprising considering HP's predisposition for trying to ax its hardware divisions this year.

Netbooks simply don't have a home to call their own anymore. There are tablets creeping up from the low end, like Amazon.com's (NAS: AMZN) $199 Kindle Fire, while higher-end offerings such as MacBook Airs and Ultrabooks breathe down from above. Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) Windows 8 tablets and PCs with better specs are due out next year, adding more reasons not to buy a netbook. They're being squeezed out of existence.

I hope netbooks enjoyed their Lindsey Lohan-esque 15 minutes of fame. Unlike Lohan, though, they can't simply bare their assets in now-private Playboy to try to reboot their careers.

Netbooks are a casualty of the mobile revolution. One reason netbooks aren't better at anything is that they've always used cheap and weak processors. The processing power in mobile devices is rising exponentially as we have quickly moved from single-, to dual-, and now quad-core mobile processors in record speed. We've uncovered one stock that is leading the way in mobile processing power, and is set to make the chips that power a slew of mobile gadgets in the near future. Find out which stock by getting access to this 100% free report that details this company's crucial role in the supply chain. Don't miss out on The Next Trillion Dollar Revolution!

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Amazon.com and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Amazon.com, Apple, and Intel and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Dell, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Intel, and Apple and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft, Apple, and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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It is really curious how rarely the term non Neumann machine turns up in this business. Tablets are von Neumann machines. Ultrabooks are von Neumann machines. Tablets are von Neumann machines. So what software is running on the various devices. I would sooner buy a netbook and a $500 oriental rug than a $1000 ultrabook.

Consumers just need to be psyched into buying more powerful computers than they need. Some people don't like netbooks because they have a low profit margin and some people made unreliable netbooks. But how much is the media biasing the buyers?

January 02 2012 at 8:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Reasons why netbooks are still good:
1) They cost $300-$400 compared to the ipad($500 minimum) + ($100)keyboard.
2) Battery life is longer (up to 14 hours on certain models)
3) They have the windows 7 operating system which has normal applications, not some small apps, which all of cost money.
4) The newest Ipad and netbooks have the same processors and for about $25, the netbook can have more ram making it faster.
5)Netbooks have 250GB of space on them. Much more than any tablet in the near future.

Tablets are for people who want to take in information but don't really need to input information. Reading is nice on a tablet, but when it comes to typing up a report or project, things get really difficult. Switching between multiple apps such as pdf reader, browser, and text editor (at minimum) becomes frustrating on tablets like the ipad where app switching requires holding the home button and scrolling through all open apps. I personally sometimes want to have two programs open next to each other.

I also don't understand the logic in getting a tablet then paying even more for a keyboard, thus transforming the tablet into an expensive netbook.

I've seen people in my college walking around with macbooks and ipads together. They said that the ipad is for reading on the go and that the macbook is for work. I look at them like they just enjoy donating money to apple.

This article is written by someone under the curtain of apple's cleaver advertising, who clearly doesn't own any tablet device, and just likes quoting the late Steve Jobs.

The netbook is just an underdog being clearly taken out by good marketing from the competition.

December 16 2011 at 9:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to alexv's comment

Most netbooks are painfully slow and upgrading internals is all but impossible and when you do upgrade the internals (more RAM and an SSD) the overall price is above that of a ultra-portable laptop that will still have more processing power.

December 17 2011 at 11:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply