Bye bye, netbooks?

Woah. This is somewhat major news.

Acer, one of the biggest PC manufacturers in the world, has announced plans to introduce 7- and 10-inch tablets in 2011. 'Big deal,' you cry. 'So has everyone else.' And it's true that Acer is one of the last big manufacturers to reveal its tablet plans.

But that's not all they've said. The tablets will run Google's Android operating system, and Intel's brand new 'Sandy Bridge' quad-core processors. That means they'll be packing some serious speed. This is getting more interesting, right?

But then came the bombshell, delivered in a soft Taiwanese tone by Acer's sales manager Lu Bing-hsian: the tablets will be 'aimed at phasing out netbooks.'

Netbooks - small, low-cost laptops - have only been with us a few years, but now a major PC manufacturer has basically declared them dead. 'That’s the direction of the market,' Bing-hsian (who with a name like that should really be working for Microsoft) declared nonchalantly in an interview with ComputerWorld.

The death of the netbook has been predicted since it became clear lots of PC manufacturers were going to attempt to rival the success of Apple's iPad. Netbooks, the theory goes, are rarely anyone's main computer, but are bought as additional devices for travel and portability and using in front of the TV - just like tablets. Nowadays, most people will go for the latter; that, at least, is the theory.

But still, for a big gun like Acer to say so brazenly that their netbooks are on the way out - before they've even released a tablet - is remarkable. It shows the keyboard-and-trackpad era really is drawing to a close. Which means exciting times for consumers.

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