Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) recently announced that it’s halting production of the Inspiron Mini computer, marking its exit from the netbook PC business. From 2007 to 2009, netbooks proved to be big business for Dell. A couple of years back, market analysts projected that various manufacturers would ship 139 million netbooks in 2013. Dell plans to instead shift focus to production of Intel‘s (NASDAQ:INTC) new ultrabook PCs.
How things change. Here at the end of 2011, research firms like Gartner who track the global PC business expect 2011 sales growth to slow from 2010, with the market growing just 3.8%. The group was expecting the PC business to ship a total of 400 million units this year; now it’s projecting just 364 million. Forget netbooks. The proliferation of devices like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android-based smartphones and Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad tablet are flat-out choking the PC market.
So netbooks look down and out. What’s next on the chopping block? Here’s a look at three other technologies — once profit-driving engines of the tech industry — that are going to fade into obscurity in 2012:
Apple iPod Classic
The iPod has had a good run during the past 10 years. From scrappy oddball to zeitgeist-defining phenomenon, the original iPod is as responsible for Apple’s rise over the past decade as the iPhone and iPad have been. This was the device that started it all.
Now called the iPod Classic, it has been two years since Apple released a new model, and the line has been all but replaced by the iPhone-like iPod Touch. With the increasing prominence of flash memory and cloud storage for music and movies and the rising cost of the hard drives used in the devices, it looks like the market finally has moved on from the iPod Classic. Apple will continue to make to make iPods in 2012, but expect the Classic to finally ride off into the sunset.
Netflix DVD/Blu-ray Rentals
No one liked it when Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) said people needed to pay more money if they wanted to continue enjoying streaming video as well as DVD and Blu-ray rentals through the mail. In fact, that made people downright angry. So while you might think, then, that Netflix abandoning disc-based sales altogether might be a final nail in the company’s reputation, it actually might not be that bad.
Disc-based movie sales are on the slide. The industry made $13.7 billion from DVD and Blu-ray back in 2006. In 2010, sales totaled just $7.8 billion. For Netflix, whose greatest hope lies in international expansion, cutting the by-mail disc business would lower operation costs significantly and free up the company to spend more on digital streaming rights. That might frustrate content partners that want to keep disc sales going, but it might just help Netflix regain some of the simple focus that made it a household name when DVDs were still booming.
The funeral plans for Nintendo‘s (PINK:NTDOY) Wii already have been set, if you consider the company’s track record. After six years on shelves and a staggering 90 million machines sold, the company will release the device’s successor, the WiiU.
However, unlike with most new gaming machine releases, the WiiU is positioned as more of an upgraded Wii rather than a whole new device. It looks like the original, is compatible with its controllers and games and keeps the branding almost indistinguishable from the first go-around. Nintendo also is known for releasing new home machines at very low prices, so WiiU likely will hit at around $250 — just like its predecessor. Nintendo has a handful of Wii games scheduled for release in the first half of 2012, so expect the company to knock the price of new machines below $99 to clear out stock before production stops by year’s end.
As of this writing, Anthony John Agnello did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter at @ajohnagnello and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.