A pile of new netbooks were introduced at the CeBIT tech show in Hannover, Germany, including models from Acer and Asustek Computer, as well as lesser-known manufacturers such as Coby Electronics, BYD and Sapphire.
In 2009, swift netbook sales helped steady an otherwise ailing PC market. While analysts expect that the netbook category will continue to grow, sales numbers are more likely to increase at a slower rate.
"According to our Netbook Share Tracker service, netbook shipments grew 79 percent in 2009," Alex Spektor, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, told eWEEK. "This high rate of growth is not sustainable in the long term, but we do expect the market to continue to expand as netbooks reach more consumers in developed countries and as the category gains momentum in emerging markets. Thus, while growth will slow compared to 2009, it is important to keep in mind that it will remain relatively robust for the next several years."
At CeBIT, held March 2 to 6, Asus introduced several Eee PC models, including the 1201PN, a netbook with a 12.1-inch screen, an Intel single-core N450 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive and Nvidia's new Ion graphics processor, which gives the netbook the energy-saving smarts to know when to rely on the dedicated or discrete graphics.
Spektor said chipset evolution, such as we're seeing from Nvidia and Intel, is an important factor in netbook growth, helping to "build stronger consumer perception of the device category."
Also new from Asus was the Eee PC Prime 1018P, its thinnest netbook yet, at seven-tenths of an inch in width. It ships in four colors, has a 10.1-inch LED screen, features USB 3.0 support and offers, unusually, a fingerprint reader. Also new were the Eee PC Diary 1016 and the Eee PC Seashell P005, both of which boast 14 hours of battery life.
Asus didn't give pricing or availability details.
Spektor said he expects that established leaders, such as Asus, Acer, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, will continue to lead the market, with a "number of smaller players going after niche (for example, very low-price) segments," which is what appeared to play out at CeBIT.
Lesser-known Coby Electronics had a 7-inch NBPC722 netbook on display, featuring a 624MHz Marvell PXA303 processor, 2GB of flash memory, Windows CE, a keyboard with touchpad and-the real eye-catcher, even in a category designed around low prices-a price tag of just $85.
Graphics card maker Sapphire introduced its first netbook, the less noteworthy N450, which pairs Windows 7 Starter with an Intel Pine Trail processor, a 10.1-inch screen, 1GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive.
Liliputing reported that along with two tablets BYD released a netbook at the show. The M09AS features an 8.9-inch display, an Intel Atom Z5xx series processor, 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth, and the choice of a 16 or 32GB solid-state drive or a 1.8-inch hard drive. With just a two-cell battery, however, users shouldn't stray far from the couch and an electrical outlet.
According to several sources, PC giant Acer-which held the No. 2 spot in worldwide PC market share in the fourth quarter of 2009-also introduced a new netbook or two, along with several notebook refreshes.
Netbooks and other mobile form factors, including tablet PCs-and most notably the Apple iPad-are expected to again drive overall PC sales in 2010, pushing the shipments in the worldwide market to 20 percent above those of 2009, Gartner announced March 4. The growth, Gartner said, will occur in both emerging and developed markets.