Sales of low-cost netbooks are growing strongly, in sharp contrast to the rest of the computer market, according to the latest figures.
A report by research firm DisplaySearch predicts that netbook sales will grow by 65 per cent in the coming year, compared to growth in notebook sales of just three per cent.
The report finds that the worsening economic situation is providing the biggest stimulus to netbook sales, as customers look for low initial purchase costs. More worryingly for some manufacturers, however, is increasing evidence that customers who would have bought full-featured notebooks are buying netbooks instead.
"With the lone exception of Apple, all the top 15 PC brands have entered the mini-note market, initially as a response to competitive threats posed by Acer and Asus, but also to satisfy demand for low-priced, entry-level PCs," said John F Jacobs, director of notebook market research at DisplaySearch, and author of the report.
"The mini-note market is effectively segmented into two main categories: low-cost PCs for emerging and education markets; and consumers and professionals seeking light-weight, ultra-mobile products that offer a modicum of PC-like functionality in a thin and light form factor."
Netbook sales are seeing their strongest growth in China and the Pacific Rim states, with the exception of Japan, where demand is very low. North America is also expected to be a low growth area.
Sales are also strong in emerging economies, however, particularly when supported by local telecoms companies.
"Telecom providers in almost every geographic region are providing subsidised mini-notes, lowering the street price by bundling it with a data plan," said Jacobs.
"In emerging economies, internet service providers have revived micro-finance models to facilitate adoption of mini-notes, while 39 original equipment manufacturers in 29 countries have partnered with Intel, via its Classmate programme, to ship approximately one million units in 2008 and an expected two million in 2009."
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