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Dell pulls out of netbook market

Dec 16, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Dell has discontinued making consumer netbooks, and appears to be ready to phase out its Latitude business netbooks in favor of larger ultrabooks, says an industry report. The netbook shutdown follows the discontinuance of Dell's Streak 7 Android tablet earlier this month.

A few years ago netbooks were a staple of LinuxDevices coverage, but then Microsoft helped kill off the Linux netbook by lowering the price of Windows XP and applying marketing pressures. Before long, Windows netbooks started fading, too, brought down by the rise of tablets and smartphones, the end of the recession, as well as the format's own inherent limitations. 

Most major PC manufacturers still carry a few netbook models, and they're selling reasonably well in emerging nations, but in most markets, netbooks are dead in the water. Dell, for one, has had enough, and is now pulling out of the netbook segment, according to two reports.

Dell's once popular Inspiron Mini 10

First Liliputing noticed that searches for 9- and 10-inch laptops on returned no results, and that they were no longer available at Dell's Outlet store either.  (The netbooks are still listed, but clicking on a price check brings up a note saying they are not in inventory.)

Searches for the Inspiron 910 and Inspiron Mini 1012 returned messages that the netbooks were unavailable, reports Liliputing. In the case of the Inspiron 910, Dell recommends that users upgrade to a 14-inch laptop.

Dell still offers an Inspiron 11z notebook with an 11.6 inch display and Intel Core i3 processor, "but supplies of this older laptop are likely limited," says the story. In addition, the business-oriented, 10.1-inch Dell Latitude 2120 is also still available, but only at a pricey $469 with Ubuntu and $529 with Windows 7.

The Verge looked into the story and received a confirmation from Dell that it has stopped manufacturing consumer netbooks. As for the enterprise-focused Latitude, Dell would only say that it would not be releasing new netbooks in any category based on Intel's Cedar Trail Atom platform.

Concluded The Verge, "In other words, it is done with the category."

Ultrabooks expected soon

Rumors that Dell was backing out of the netbook market started in the spring of 2010. It has been a slow and gradual retreat, however.

As Liliputing notes, Dell is actively pushing its Inspiron 14R line of laptops with 14 inch displays. Meanwhile, it's ready to jump into Intel's ultrabook format/concept, according to The Verge. These 11- to 14-inch notebooks have already been announced by a number of vendors, including Acer, Asus, and Lenovo.

Ultrabooks are notable for being less than 0.8 inches thin, and for starting up quickly with the help of solid state drive (SSD) storage. The devices run Core processors, however, rather than the more energy efficient Atom chips found in netbooks, and they cost more, coming in at just under $1,000. 

The current generation of ultrabooks, such as the now shipping  Asus UX-21 (pictured), run on "Sandy Bridge" Core processors, but a subsequent generation using forthcoming, 22nm "Ivy Bridge" Core CPUs will arrive in the first half of 2012, according to Intel.

The third step in the Ultrabook device progression will come in 2013, when products based on "Haswell" Core processors will be released. These devices will reduce power consumption to "half of the 'thermal design point' for today's microprocessors," the chip giant recently promised.

Last month, iSuppli estimated that by 2015, 43 percent of all notebook shipments will be ultrabooks, Intel's own estimates are for 40 percent of the notebook market to go ultrabook by the end of 2012.

Netbook retreat follows Streak tablet shutdown

The news of Dell's netbook retreat comes several weeks after Dell quietly discontinued the seven-inch, Android-based Streak 7 tablet. A few months earlier it retired its only other Android tablet, the smaller Streak 5. Neither fared well in reviews. 

If Dell has at least temporarily given up on Android tablets, it appears as if it will continue to try out the business-oriented, Windows 7 tablet market. In late October, the company released the 10.1-inch Latitude ST tablet, which runs Windows 7 on an Intel Atom Z670 processor. Dell pointed out to The Verge that its Windows-based Inspiron Duo hybrid netbook/tablet (pictured) is doing well, although it is temporarily out of stock.

Dell also offers the Dell Venue Pro smartphone running Windows Phone 7, as well as the Dell Venue Android phone. However, the smartphone market appears to be more of an experiment than a major thrust for the company.

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