For almost as long as there have been netbooks, I’ve been meeting netbook manufacturers and other industry types who look at the little machines with disdain and predict that consumers will soon lose interest. (What will consumers opt for instead? Why, costlier laptops that are more powerful–and profitable.)
Until recently, there’s been little evidence that consumers had gotten the memo about their disenchantment with netbooks–in fact, when I’ve visited computer stores recently, I’ve been struck by just how much acreage is still devoted to the systems. But Cnet is reporting that the chip analysts at IDC are about to report a decline in shipments of Intel’s Atom CPUs–the dominant processors inside netbooks–as a percentage of Intel’s total CPU mix.
The news isn’t a definitive death knell for notebooks. For one thing, more or less traditional netbooks using Intel processors and Windows are facing competition from netbook variants such as “smartbooks” that don’t use Intel technology. And Google is going to try and inject some new excitement into netbooks later this year when the first Chrome OS models come out.
But I’m willing to contemplate the possibility that netbooks may have peaked. With basic full-blown notebooks available for less than the cost of a typical netbook–not to mention the competition known as the iPad–netbooks aren’t going to thrive just because they don’t cost much. They’re going to have to be good computers that happen to be small and cheap…