According to ABI Research, netbook shipments will reach 35 million this year, and expand to nearly 140 million by 2013. The explosion of a category only recently introduced to the public comes after a confluence of technology and acceptance, says ABI practice director Kevin Burden.
"That is the story of 2009, I believe," Burden tells Marketing Daily. "Netbooks' time has come, and ABI research expects them to enjoy very strong market growth." While the first netbooks were introduced in 2007, they are gaining more ground this year. According to the NPD Group, netbook sales accounted for about 12% of all laptop sales in December 2008 (when they became more readily available; about half of all netbooks sold last year were sold in December).
Although people have become accustomed to using a smartphone (like a BlackBerry or iPhone) for certain business uses, conducting actual business on them has its limitations, Burden says. That understanding will give rise to a desire to have a device that is smaller than a laptop, yet still offers many of a laptop's functions. "Smartphones aren't so great at data creation, and they're only so good at data consumption," Burden says. "People are beginning to realize there's a lot of smartphones that can do all of those things, but they won't be devices people will want to carry."
Given the current economic climate, the netbook price point--which is generally around $300 and dropping--could also play into its favor. Rather than buying a new computer or upgrading to a next-generation smartphone, consumers may opt to find a middle-of-the road solution with a netbook. While the NPD Group forecasts that netbook sales will eat into laptop sales, they could also take a bite out of the smartphone market, according to Burden.
"The potential question is, what type of impact does this have on the smartphone market?" Burden says. "The smartphones aren't going away. The operators want more smartphones on their systems. ... But maybe instead of buying a new smartphone, you buy a netbook instead."