The death knell may be sounding for netbooks. According to a recent story by DigiTimes, two heavyweights of the netbook world, Acer and Asus, both plan to phase out their existing product lines and pull out of the market. In the site's words:
Asustek is already set to halt its Eee PC product line and officially phase out from the IT industry after completely digesting any remaining inventory. As for Acer, so far, the company has not yet made any plans to open new netbook projects, indicating that the vendor may also plan to step out of the market.
The site attributes the news to "sources from netbook players," but it says Asus CEO Jerry Shen has officially confirmed his firm's plans. Reportedly, Asus will use its Transformer tablets fill the void left by 10" netbooks.
Transformers aren't quite as cheap as low-end Eee PCs, though. The most affordable Asus tablet on Newegg right now is the Transformer Pad TF300T, which costs $379 without a keyboard. Throw in the detachable keyboard accessory, and you're in for another $134. Total cost: $513—substantially more than the sub-$300 price tags on cheaper Eee PCs.
As DigiTimes points out, Windows 8's impending arrival might be forcing the hand of some manufacturers. Windows 8 doesn't support the 1024x600 panel size popular among 8.9" and 10.1" netbooks, and I haven't heard of a low-cost Windows 8 edition comparable to Windows 7 Starter. Consequently, DigiTimes says shipments of Intel's N- and D-series Atom processors (which target netbooks and nettops, respectively) are expected to decline by nearly 50% next quarter.