Lenovo recently stopped selling netbooks, prompting netbook haters around the web to loudly proclaim the “death of the netbook.”
This is, of course, absurd. The netbook was never a well-defined product: essentially, it was a word describing small laptops. I’m not sure what makes a MacBook Air different from a netbook: it’s a small computer too. So the “death of the netbook” is essentially the death of a word: netbook. Computer manufacturers will keep making small computers; they’ll just call them something else. This year they’ll call them Ultrabooks; next year they’ll call them Miniputers or some other made-for-marketing buzzword.
Of course, a key argument here is that tablets are killing the “netbook” market. I can see that: if you want a small device with great battery life for browsing the web it’s hard to beat a tablet.
I, however, am thrilled to own a netbook instead of a tablet. Am I crazy? Probably, but that’s unrelated. Here’s why I’ve no regrets with my netbook purchase.
1. Affordable and Useful Long-Term
Two and a half years ago I bought my EEE PC for $200. It’s still the computer I do most of my writing on.
It’s not a tablet, but because it comes with a keyboard I (a writer) can use it to get actual work done. Ever better: I can still put up-to-date software on it. Would I be better off having spent in excess of $600 on a keyboardless tablet two years ago, only to find out that upcoming versions of iOS or Android won’t work on it? To watch as the device becomes useless for lack of software updates?
Here’s my point: people who bought an iPhone 3G when I bought my netbook today have a device they can’t install most new apps on. Is there any compelling reason to believe Apple won’t do the same thing to the first generation iPad?
So, no regrets.
2. Tablets Are For Consumption, Not Creativity
If you want to mindlessly scroll through your Twitter feed, watch the occasional movie or fling imaginary birds into towers of pigs, a tablet is what you’re looking for.
If you want to actually create something, you need a computer. In my case, that computer happens to be a netbook.
Tablets are, by design, a consumption device. They are great for playing around, but impractical for creating anything meaningful. Don’t get me wrong: tablets work for a few limited acts of creativity. For the most part, though, tablets are tailored towards mindless consumption; a quick look at the most popular apps in the Android or iOS market will show you that: the vast majority of popular apps are games or other things for consuming instead of creation.
A touchscreen keyboard is terrible if you’re a writer: touch-typing is impossible. And sure, you can purchase a keyboard for your tablet, but if that’s what you want why didn’t you just buy a netbook in the first place?
3. No Glass to Shatter
4. Glowing Screens Suck For Reading
The one reason I might want a tablet is for reading: books and news articles are among my favorite things.
The problem: I stare at a glowing screen most of my day, and don’t want to when my work day is over. So I prefer reading books on an e-ink screen or, even better, actual pieces of paper. It’s easier on my eyes, and it’s a lot easier to fall asleep if you’ve not staring at a screen right before bed.
Even better: books and tablets don’t constantly remind me about unread emails and Twitter messages. I can’t concentrate on a book if I’m constantly being reminded of other, less meaningful information streams. Maybe other people have more discipline than me, but I find it easier to focus without quick access to distractions.
Even better: because my netbook only cost me $200 I can easily afford an e-ink reader. Combined, the cost of my netbook and my e-reader don’t come close to the cost of a tablet.
I love my netbook, and refuse to apologize for that. It’s not expensive and disposable, it’s good for production instead of just consumption and it’s not another glowing screen for me to stare at.
Disagree? You’re entitled to. Leave your rants in the comments below, because I certainly left mine above.