Netbook Sales to More than Double by 2013, ABI Says

Netbooks, once expected to fade away in favor of desktops and notebooks, are still enjoying strong sales. Shipments are forecast to hit 60 million in 2010, and that figure is now expected to double by 2013, according to a report by ABI Research.

Netbook sales are showing no signs of waning, ABI Research announced July 22, sharing findings from a new study. Nearly 60 million netbooks-lightweight PCs with prices that are generally under $400 and enough power for social networking activities and Web surfing- are expected to ship worldwide by the end of 2010, and that figure is likely to double by 2013, the research company said.

Sales of netbooks were expected to taper off as the global economy began to strengthen in late 2009 and more robust PCs with ultralow-voltage processors and falling price points came to market. This, however, has not been the case.

"Consumer interest in netbooks shows no sign of waning, and the attraction remains the same: value rather than raw performance," ABI said in a statement. "Netbooks are not replacing laptops or PCs; they are being bought as complementary devices."

Asustek Computer pioneered the netbook category in 2007, with the $199 Eee PC. Asus and competitor Acer dominated the category through 2008, holding two-thirds of the worldwide market share between them. The market has since changed significantly, wrote ABI, as a number of vendors quickly scrambled on board.

"Instead of having a preeminent two, it looks as if only Acer will continue to maintain its commanding lead; but at the same time there are more vendors competing head-to-head," ABI analyst Jeff Orr said in a statement. "Most of the others, major names-HP, Dell, Lenovo-increased their market shares in 2009, while Samsung lost a couple of percentage points."

Orr added that the market is beginning to settle into something more stable, and as this happens there's likely to be "consolidation through attrition," with some of the smaller players pulling out of the market.

"Some firms saw netbooks as an entry point into the PC market," he said. "Gigabyte is one example. But with a 2009 market share falling to just 0.1 percent, Gigabyte might be advised to rethink that strategy."

While netbooks were originally conceived as a consumer product, enterprise interest has helped netbook sales continue, and ABI highlights the education market as a particularly strong driver. Worldwide PC market-share leader Hewlett-Packard, for example, offers the Mini 100e Education Edition, an under-$300 unit for elementary-age users and classrooms in developing markets, while Dell offers the Latitude 2100 netbook, which has kid-friendly features such as a grippy rubber exterior and an anti-microbial keyboard.

"Education remains a strong market driver," Orr said, "and the next several years will see very respectable continuing growth."