Have tablets killed the netbook star? The folks at Lilliputing made an interesting discovery yesterday: Dell's line of netbooks seems to have quietly vanished. A search for "netbook" on Dell's website brings up no matches—only the following statement:
Looking for Dell Mini Netbooks?
Our mini netbooks are no longer available. Shop the next best thing - the Inspiron 14R, a stylish and portable 14" laptop with SWITCHable lids.
Liliputing does note that Dell's Latitude 2120 netbook remains available, but that's a business product priced quite a bit higher than your typical consumer netbook. (The base model costs $469, and Dell charges a whopping $742 for the most expensive option. In contrast, typical Asus and Acer netbooks cost around $300 or less, as did Dell's own Mini 10 netbooks when they were still around.)
The Verge pinged Dell about the subject, and it received a pretty unambiguous response. Dell is reportedly "no longer making consumer netbooks," and it "will not be releasing new netbooks based on Intel's forthcoming Cedar Trail platform." The Verge quotes Dell Marketing Director Alison Gardner as saying, "Thin and powerful is where it is at for us." That description sounds like a reference to ultrabooks, although Dell has yet to announce its entry in that category. I reckon that will change when CES rolls around next month, though.
I suppose netbooks don't have much of a raison d'être these days. Folks who want cheap devices to surf the web seem to be flocking to tablets, and users who need full-featured PCs are much better-served by full laptops, which offer decent-sized keyboards and relatively un-cramped displays. Personally, I've always found 10" or smaller netbooks to be awkward and punitive to use. I don't expect I'll shed any tears if other PC vendors follow in Dell's footsteps.