Netbooks were a big part of the mobile world in 2008 and 2009. Their low-cost, light weight and relatively long battery life (for some of them) offset the sometimes pokey performance using Windows XP and downright awful performance when using Windows Vista (Windows 7, by the way, tends to run just fine on these netbooks). When Apple introduced is iPad in April 2010, its $499 starting price, rich app library, outstanding battery life (10 hours), and excellent performance (for the functions it was capable of performing) pulled the rug out from under the netbook market. mocoNews.net’s Tom Krazit says that netbooks were a fad and should go away.
But, I see netbooks in a different way. Those of us of a certain age watched movies or read about the legendary Pony Express riders of the 19th century. The Pony Express riders rode through dangerous territories to deliver mail in the Old West. What most people don’t know is that the Pony Express only provided its service for 18 months. That’s right. Read that again – 18 months (not years). That’s roughly the same period of time that netbooks were popular. The Pony Express riders provided a valuable communications service during the U.S.’s westward expansion. The telegraph and coast to coast train service. Netbooks provided a valuable bridging product during tough economic times. They may not be in style or as wanted anymore. But, the provide a valuable lesson in product evolution. The question is what comes after or in addition to tablets? Apple’s own MacBook Air 2010 model seems to point us at a product category that looks a lot like netbooks except different. Perhaps, in the same way that the Pony Express riders and trains provided similar service but were different.