NetBooks to Hit 35 Million in 2009?

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Will 2009 mark the beginning of the “netbook era?” Market analysis firm ABI Research thinks so, forecasting that some 35 million netbooks will be shipped worldwide in 2009…and that the number will explode to 139 million units by 2013. And one big reason? The mobile technology industry increasingly realizing that PDAs, smartphones, and so-called MIDs (mobile Internet devices) are not and cannot be the answer for every on-the-go communications need.

“When PDA functionality converged with cellular voice, smartphones became the new darling of mobile professional technology that many expected to evolve into the hub for all data and communication needs for traveling professionals,” said ABI practice director Kevin Burden, in a statement. “Today, with a better understanding for what a smartphone is, is not, and may never be, along with a reality check on the usefulness of UMPCs, the market remains open for new device types.”

Although there’s little denying the computing market is all abuzz about netbooks, some significant hurdles to netbook adoption may remain. For instance, Microsoft is still desperately trying to phase out the netbook operating system of choice—Windows XP—and the so-far under-powered netbook offerings don’t do very well with Windows Vista or the upcoming Windows 7 (although offerings like Nvidia’s Ion platform may change that). Plus, while netbooks have a lot of buzz, they’re also the source of a lot of grumbling, with consumers reporting less satisfaction with netbooks than any other notebook computer offering. Some industry watchers aren’t yet ready to count out the smartphone: consumers and professional users alike are very keen on the Apple iPhone, various BlackBerry offerings, and a Google Android ecosystem might be just over the horizon.

Nonetheless, ABI is bullish on netbooks, arguing their relative portability and low-to-moderate price points may be the “right-sized” mobile communications solution for travelers and mobile professionals.

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