Intel appears ready to lift restrictions on Atom-based netbooks that prevented the use of the processors in devices with displays larger than 10.2 inches.
The restrictions reportedly had been in place to keep netbooks from fully cannibalizing the notebook space, as notebooks usually have larger displays.
With the dual-core Atom N550 processors scheduled to launch in the second half of 2010, however, Intel will lift these restrictions, enabling the use of the processors in notebooks with 11.6- and 12.1-inch displays, Digitimes reported May 19.
According to the report, netbooks with the new Atom N550 will feature 1GB of DDR3 (double data rate 3) memory and the choice of a 32GB solid-state drive or 250GB hard drive.
"We'll continue to include new features, performance and higher levels of integration in the future, and we are committed to innovation in this category," Digitimes quoted Intel as saying.
Further, Intel is said to remain optimistic about the netbook market and continues to expect to see hundreds of millions of netbooks ship over the next few years.
In 2009, more than 36 million netbooks shipped worldwide, according to ABI Research, which in a May 17 report predicted that sales would continue upward, reaching 58 million by the end of 2010.
ABI analyst Jeff Orr, author of the report, said he expects the netbook market to further fragment. "Functionality will be added to mainstream netbook products while at the same time an entry-level netbook solution will grow, with the aim of targeting some large emerging markets (including China and India) where PC penetration is still quite low," Orr wrote.
While netbook sales continue to rise year to year, the rate of growth has slowed since their introduction and the stratospheric 2,424 percent growth experienced in 2008. As the strong sales of netbooks were considered to be partly in response to the global recession, some analysts expect that with economic improvements many consumers may return to shopping for more robust PCs.
Also expected to somewhat slow netbook sales, ABI said, is the growing presence of tablets, such as the Apple iPad. Hewlett-Packard will launch a new tablet later in 2010, and Google and Verizon have said they're also at work on a tablet.
For now, however, ABI expects the netbook market to enjoy an annual growth grate of 23 percent.