NPD: Netbooks Sales Even Hotter Than Expected

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During the current economic downturn, about the only bright spot in computer sales has been netbooks, those infamously low-cost, under-powered mini-notebooks that offer users an inexpensive way to deal with email and the Web…and, typically, very little else. Now the DisplaySearch arm of retail analysis group NPD is reporting that sales of netbooks are even hotter than expected: the firm expects nearly 33 million netbooks will be snapped up in 2009, meaning netbooks will account for about 20 percent of the PC market worldwide. DisplaySearch also expects the market for traditional notebooks&mdaash;defined as notebooks with 12.1-inch or larger screens—to remain flat for the year.

“Mini-notes are forecast to continue to be a significant portion of the market,” said DisplaySearch’s director of notebook market research and the report’s author John F. Jacobs, in a statement. “While these devices have certainly created a new market, our research indicates that they are predominantly used as secondary PCs by consumers, and are not replacing notebooks.”

Part of the irony of netbooks’ popularity as secondary PCs in developed nations is that the products were originally intended to bring computing to emerging and developing markets. DisplaySearch finds that markets like Latin America and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) are buying a greater proportion of netbooks compared to traditional netbooks, relative to their overall market share. The forecast predicts netbook penetration will pass 26 percent in Latin Amerca, and 22 percent in EMEA.

In comparison, the Asia-Pacific region, China, and North America lag behind the netbook’s overall grwoth rate; DisplaySearch even found the Japanese netbook market will shrink by 13 percent this year.

The report also doesn’t hold out much hope for success for subsidized netbooks being offered by the likes of Verizon; although subsidized netbooks have done will in Europe, the report notes 3G connectivity in Europe is considerably less expensive than in the United States, making the subsidized netbooks more appealing.

The report also notes that netbook owners aren’t altogether happy with the cramped quarters on netbooks. “As display sizes of these devices have quickly moved from 7.0 inches to 8.9 inches to 10.1 inches, and now with the emergence of 11.6-inch and 12.0-inch mini-note products, it is clear that buyers want a light-weight device, but that they also want a bigger display,” noted Jacobs.

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