Once the rising stars of the personal computing industry, netbooks have fallen out of grace in the last few years, replaced in consumer's hearts by tablets or more powerful ultra-slim laptops. Samsung, Dell and Toshiba already walked out of this market as far back as 2011 in favor of higher-margin products. Now, Acer and Asus, the last two major netbook manufacturers are giving the form factor a final blow.
According to a report by Digitimes, the companies have no plans of releasing new netbooks in 2013, effectively killing the category once their current inventories are depleted.
The low cost of netbooks combined with their ability to handle most basic tasks made them quite successful for a few years. They were perfect as affordable travel companions or secondary systems. By 2009 the devices had become so popular that every major PC manufacturer had their own line, with many analysts suggesting it was only a matter of time before Apple was forced to jump in to keep up.
However, the form factor never really evolved that much. Every device was running pretty much the same underpowered hardware under the hood -- an Intel Atom chip, up to 320GB of storage and up to 3GB of RAM -- and there wasn't a lot that OEMs could do to differentiate due to their increasingly thinner profit margins.
Interest began to wane as full-sized laptops became more powerful, lighter and cheaper. Then in 2010 Apple released the iPad and its success pretty much sealed the fate for netbooks as manufacturers and consumers shifted their attention to tablets.
But there may still be a glimmer of hope for cheap laptops. As a post on Slashdot notes, Amazon currently lists an 11.6-inch Chromebook from Samsung as the best-selling laptop on its website, with two additional Chrome OS machines sitting in the top twenty. What's more, the listed price for Samsung's Chromebook is $325, not the original $249, as only a handful of units remain in stock through the Amazon Marketplace.