Dell apparently is doing away with netbooks to make room for ultrabooks.
The world's second-largest PC maker is no longer selling its line of Inspiron Mini notebooks, choosing instead to focus its efforts on thin and light notebooks, including the ultrabook category championed by giant chip maker Intel.
The 10-inch Inspiron Minis are no longer listed on the company's Website, and a search returns a message saying the systems are no longer available. Instead, the site recommends what it calls "the next best thing": the Inspiron 14R, a 14-inch laptop "with SWITCHable lids."
Dell officials said the Dell Mini netbooks are gone and won't be coming back. In an emailed statement to CNET, Matthew Hutchison, director of Dell global consumer PR, said the company "sold through the Dell Mini some time ago. We're committed to the highly portable space and have focused on delivering thin + powerful solutions, for which we've seen strong success, particularly in our XPS line."
Netbooks hit the market in 2008 and found a strong following, in large part fueled by the global recession. Consumers were looking for relatively inexpensive computing options, and the small netbooks met the demand. Intel introduced its Atom line of low-power processors initially for the netbook market. In May 2009, IDC analysts said netbooks and cloud computing were two of the key emerging technologies for that year, due to buyers' collapsing budgets.
Netbooks saw greater competition from the growing numbers of low-power and higher-performing laptops that were hitting the market that offered more functionality than netbooks. Then came Apple's iPad in 2010, which kicked off a reinvigorated tablet PC market and has severely limited sales of netbooks and slowed the growth of the overall PC market, according to analysts.
"The U.S. PC market continued to contract in 2Q11, largely as a result of three factors," IDC analyst Rajani Singh said in a statement in July, when the analyst firm announced its second-quarter PC market numbers. "The first is an ongoing contraction in the Mini Notebook (Netbook) market and related inventories. The second is the impact of 2Q10's difficult-to-sustain 12% growth. And third, demand has softened as corporate buyers continue to focus on increasing share of their IT budget in new IT solutions such as cloud and virtualization, and consumer interest shifts to media tablets."
Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa saw the same thing in October, when the firm announced its third-quarter PC numbers. "The popularity of non-PC devices, including media tablets, such as the iPad and smartphones, took consumers' spending away from PCs," Kitagawa said in a statement.
Still, some vendors, including Acer, Asus and Toshiba, continue to push netbooks.
However, Intel and PC OEMs are now pushing another PC segment, the ultrabook, which is designed to have the functionality of traditional notebooks while offering features-such as instant-on and always-connected capabilities, longer battery life and, eventually, touch capabilities-that are found in tablets.
Analysts say ultrabooks could jump-start a listless PC market while also giving Intel some traction in the highly coveted mobile computing space.