It was a fun experiment that shook the market up for a while, and taught "the Industry," and me, a few things;
- Most people use their computers as computers only occasionally. Typing out three lines of text in answer to an e-mail is important to the user, but it's hardly taxing to the system resources of the machine you find yourself sitting in from of now, or what could be found ten years earlier.
- Your access to the internet matters a hell of a lot more than hardware to the average user. Okay, I have to admit, I'm guilty of this myself. I know how much RAM is being used as I type this out, and how much of a load the Intel Atom CPU is being taxed, and if I choose to, I can examine how very little of my hard-drive is cluttered up with data - but of paramount importance to me is the wifi-chipset that connects me to the router, and the rest of the "inter-webs." It's one of those things that matters.
- No one cares about the Operating System. Okay, except for the Apple fan-boys, and the Linux Hippies. I have seen no one from the Microsoft camp, not employed by Microsoft, with this level of passion. It's hard to fake, and with good reason. People want the OS to get out of the way so they can run the application they like.
Fast-forward a few years to now. The netbooks are history, except for a few hold-outs like myself, who went back to running Linux rather than the resource-draining Operating System that came on it. In their place is; the Tablet. A flat piece of glass and plastic (of Aluminum), touch screen, and pretty amazing battery life. Everyone has their own flavor - the Apple iPad, Microsoft Surface (or lesser advertised Windows RT tablet), and scores of Android tablets.
I'm writing this on 2012-12-23, and from the sales that I've seen at my store, we've sold three Android devices for every one Windows8 machine. We'd have sold more, but our supply can't keep up with the demand. Only one ASUS Windows RT tablet was sold, that I know of, and the customer had a coupon for a free $150 keyboard to make it a usable device. I'm not going to include the Amazon Kindle's or BN Nook's in this; they're to locked-down to really be considered Android devices. [Fine, they have a Linux kernel. But just let me have this one, okay?]
Why are people buying them?
- They work. You download Netflix, youtube, Google Drive, and Gmail apps and you do your thing. You sign in with a Google account, and you're 80% done with setting things up.
- They're cheap. Well, okay, in comparison to the price tag of a MS Surface ($500 - which has come down drastically), the Nexus 7 ($200) or Nexus 10 ($300) is brilliant! Even if you factor in a $100 bluetooth keyboard, you're not playing the infamous Apple Tax for being the first in line to get a wedgie.
- Microsoft Office, or any other MS app, really isn't worth the asking price. In famous Balmer-style, Redmond has said "NO" to MS Office for Android, as with Linux many years before. The Linux world responded with Abiword, Gnumeric, Koffice, Open Office, and finally, Libre Office. Google responded with Google Docs, which evolved into Google Drive, and lets me create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on a smartphone, tablet, or computer and have roughly the same experience across the board. Having tried to duplicate the same experience with MS SkyDrive... ah, I wouldn't advise hoping against hope that it'll improve.
- "It's the same as my phone." Many who have bought Android phones get the fact that an Android tablet isn't going to be all that different. Many people deliberately chose Android after seeing Windows-phone-whatever or an iPhone. They know how to use it, they know what to expect. Windows8 - well, when the family Geek backs away from it like a Vampire reacting to sunlight, you know there's a problem.
So, after a few years of trial and error, Tablets are what Netbooks tried to be. Lightweight, fast, long battery-life, easy, and plenty of apps. Cool.
The above was typed out using Geany text-editor on an Acer D250 netbook running Crunchbang Linux. If/when it dies, I'll pick up an Android tablet, but not before. I also have two other laptops running Crunchbang, one dual-booting with Windows8.
A week after posting this, I found an article on zdnet backing up most of what I said. Cool.