Netbook Sales Highest on U.S. Coasts, Says NPD Group

U.S. netbook sales are highest on the coasts, according to new data from research company NPD Group. As the rest of America warms to netbooks, the challenge will be to emphasize their status as companion PCs, not just cheap notebooks.

The popularity of netbooks has helped to keep PC shipments from falling dramatically as customers cut back on spending in a struggling economy.
The majority of those U.S. netbook sales, according to a report from research company NPD Group, have been occurring in major cities on the country's coasts.
In New York, for example, 12.3 percent of all notebooks sold were netbooks. In San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., combined, 11.4 percent were netbooks, and in Miami, 11.3 percent were. Other cities that saw major netbook sales were San Diego, Washington, Los Angeles and Boston.
Overall Windows notebook sales rose 15.7 percent from October 2008 through April 2009, NPD Group reported, explaining that without the netbooks, that number would have been 3.6 percent.
"It is apparent by where the most robust early adoption has taken place that the netbook concept is resonating best in the traditional trendsetting coastal technology markets," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, wrote in a May 28 statement on the data.
However, those buyers, Baker told eWEEK, are not solely motivated by price.
"Are they motivated by price? Sure, everybody is, to some extent. But that's not their only motivation. There are, at least for these buyers, a combination of factors guiding them," he said.
Baker emphasized that as netbooks become more mainstream, it will be the job of the entire supply chain to create segmentation and prevent netbooks-originally intended as a complementary device to a robust, and less travel-friendly, primary computer-from being viewed as simply cheap notebooks.
An April 30 report from research company iSuppli suggested that an improvement in economic conditions could potentially hurt the netbook market, which iSuppli said it believed was primarily driven by the devices' low cost.
"People are not buying netbooks because they are truly desirable platforms, but rather because as low-cost PCs, they offer a good mix of features at an acceptable price point," wrote Matthew Wilkins, an analyst with iSuppli.
Baker told eWEEK, "We've been bad about targeting to specific buyers. If we lose control ... then we're going to end up with everyone buying based on price ... and a cannibalization in other product categories."
As netbook popularity spreads beyond the coasts, Baker said, people need to understand their value proposition. In the end, he said, "The goal is to keep netbooks segmented, away from the mainstream PC market."