Some of the problems facing Microsoft over the past couple of years can be traced to the sharp and sudden decline of the netbook market. Once one of the fastest growing computer segments ever, the netbook has had its lunch eaten by the even faster rise of the modern tablet.
To be honest, netbooks were really not very good in terms of the user experience. They often featured keyboards that were far too small with mushy buttons, extremely low-res displays with awful viewing angles, slow processors and mediocre (by today's standards) battery life.
Still - they were cheap. The Eee PC 701, tiny as it was, premiered at just $399. That might sound like a lot now, but in 2007, it was revolutionary. Laptops were often still terribly expensive, and netbooks provided a cheap alternative at just the right time.
Nowadays, that niche has been filled by tablets. You can get some name brand Android tablets for $150, and go lower still if you're willing to take a risk on an unknown company. Even premium tablets, like the iPad Mini, can be had for only $300, and offer a drastically superior experience to that found on those early netbooks.
As a result, Microsoft has seen its marketshare in the low-priced segment of the market drop, and its attempt to push the new touch-oriented Windows 8 onto tablets has flopped.
Well, maybe ASUS can come to the company's rescue again.
The new ASUS Transformer Book T100 2-in-1 hybrid laptop is an extraordinary feat of engineering. Inside is a quad-core Intel Bay Trail next-generation processor, running at 1.33GHz. There's 2GB of RAM, and either a 32GB or 64GB SSD. A single USB 3.0 port rests on the side of the keyboard dock.
Made of metal and plastic, the display measures at 10.1 inches, with a 1366x768 resolution. Unlike the netbooks of old, the screen is actually quite good - HD and IPS, it has excellent viewing angles. Moreover, the whole device's build quality is really quite excellent.
The keyboard exhibits a little flex, but it's not bad at all.
Hit a button beneath the screen, and it pops off, giving you a 550g tablet (for those keeping track at home, that's about 80% heavier than an an iPad Mini. In other words, it's really quite light! Giving you ten-finger multitouch with decent speakers, it's important to remember that this unit runs a full version of Windows 8. No Windows RT, no ARM CPU, no worry about whether your applications are compatible, because guess what - they all are.
And in a huge boon to customers, ASUS has worked with Microsoft to provide a full copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 with every purchase of the new Transformer Book T100 - pre-installed.
You'll be able to use this to type up all of your emails, presentations, and spreadsheets
I mentioned that this is the netbook for the new decade, and here's why - this whole package is going to start at an absolutely unbelievable $349. THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY-NINE DOLLARS, for a full notebook and tablet and Windows 8 and Office 2013. Amazing.
At this price, it's going to be hard for the average Android tablet or Chromebook to compete.
You'll be able to pick one of these up starting on October 18th, so stay tuned for our full review - we're certain that both we, and you, are going to love it.
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