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Netbooks as we know them - computers with low-performance microprocessor, moderate built quality and small screens - are about to die. Dell, one of the largest PC makers in the world, has quietly discontinued its Mini lineup of netbooks with 9" or 10" screens and offers its customers to take a look at its notebook line instead.

The Mini-series netbooks are no longer listed at Dell's U.S. web-site and attempts to find them lead to a notification that the Mini family of netbooks are no longer sold and customers should take a look at more powerful notebooks instead. In particular, Dell recommends Inspiron 11z powered by Intel Core i3 with 11.6" screen for $399 or Inspiron 14R with 14" display and Core i5 for $649.

"Our mini netbooks are no longer available. Shop the next best thing - the Inspiron 14R, a stylish and portable 14" laptop with SWITCHable lids," the statement reads.

The Dell Mini-series netbooks first became available in late 2008 - in the midst of the worst economic downturn in this generation - and offered extreme portability and long battery life at low-cost while massively sacrificing performance and features. Netbooks turned out to be too slow for more or less demanding productivity applications and thus were turned down by professionals or multimedia-interested end-users. Therefore, people used those devices for basic Internet browsing, communications and other very simple tasks.

The currently available Intel Atom processors that power the majority of netbooks no longer offer truly acceptable levels of speed and capabilities, which is why sales of netbooks are dropping rapidly. Not surprisingly, many companies are reconsidering their ultra portable strategies going forward. Samsung Electronics, one of the world's largest consumer electronics and semiconductor conglomerate, plans to discontinue its netbook computers with 10.1" screens in favour of ultra-portable notebooks, tablets as well as ultrabooks.

Throughout the year 2012, the market of ultra-portable and ultra low-cost mobile computers will change drastically. On the one hand, systems that tend to be low cost will use next-generation Intel Atom processors, but will have much better displays, improved multimedia feature-set and improved user experience. On the other hand, ultra-thin systems that do not need to carry lowest possible price-tag will get much more affordable than they are today thanks to Intel's ultrabook initiative. Meanwhile, tablets will gain the entertainment part of the PC market. In the end, the netbook as we know it today is dead.

Tags: Dell, Atom, Intel, Inspiron

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