The era of the low-cost netbook is upon us as 33 million shipments of these devices are expected this year. At the same time, analysts say that the market for traditional notebooks will be flat for the first time ever.
Research by DisplaySearch has found that netbooks will now account for 20pc of all notebooks sold worldwide. But analysts say they are being used mainly as secondary notebooks by consumers rather than replacements for notebooks.
Penetration rates for mini-notebooks are forecast to exceed 26pc in Latin America, and 22pc in EMEA, with the lowest penetration rates in Asia-Pacific, North America and China.
In emerging markets like Latin America, the low prices of mini-notebooks offer a more affordable product. In 2008, 45pc of all mini-notebooks were shipped into EMEA markets. While this figure is forecast to drop to 40pc in 2009, this share is well in excess of the region’s total share of the notebook PC market.
In many regions, telecom providers have been offering subsidised mini-notebooks for several quarters, which helped propel growth.
In North America, the three largest telecom providers (AT&T, Sprint and Verizon) are aggressively marketing mini-notebooks.
As smartphone penetration continues to increase in North America (and a number of other regions), it will become increasingly necessary for telecoms to find their next revenue stream as the incremental revenue increase from smartphone subscribers slows.
Penetration of mini-notebooks is one of the primary factors behind DisplaySearch’s expectations of flat year-on-year demand for notebook PCs. The other factor is a dramatic reduction in demand from enterprise customers.
Businesses responded quickly to the economic downturn by cutting purchasing, especially of expensive IT-related products.
DisplaySearch believes that there is significant pent-up demand in the B2B market, as many enterprises did not upgrade from Windows XP to Vista. The launch of Windows 7 in late October this year, if combined with economic recovery, could lead to a rapid recovery in enterprise notebook PC demand. However, DisplaySearch does not expect this to occur until 2010.
“Mini-notebooks are forecast to continue to be a significant portion of the market,” explained John Jacobs, director of Notebook Market Research and author of the report.
“However, as display sizes of these devices have quickly moved from 7.0-inch to 8.9-inch to 10.1-inch, and now with the emergence of 11.6-inch and 12.0-inch mini-notebook products, it is clear that buyers want a lightweight device, but that they also want a bigger display.
“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,” Jacobs added.
By John Kennedy