Global shipments of netbooks increased by an eye-popping 2,424 percent in 2008 and shipments are expected to jump 68.5 percent in 2009, reports market research group iSuppli.
But as economic conditions improve into 2010 and beyond, the research group notes in an an April 30 report, a healthier economy will stunt the currently growing netbook market.
"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, a principal analyst with iSuppli.
"With financial motivation a key factor in many netbook sales, growth of the netbook platform is likely to slow down when the economy comes back and consumers have more money in their pockets," Wilkins added.
iSuppli defines a netbook as a "mobile PC with a fully functional operating system, including local storage, a keyboard and a wireless connectivity."
Netbooks or mini-notebooks are generally priced at less than $600 and these devices were originally conceived as second computers for travelers and those who could use a lightweight device to complement their more robust devices: something bigger than a smartphone but smaller than a laptop.
iSuppli is forecasting global netbook shipments of approximately 31 million units in 2010-a growth of 39.6 percent-and a growth of 13.1 percent in 2013. It lists 2008 shipment numbers at 13.2 million and 2009 forecasts at 22.2 million units.
Those who believe netbooks are cannibalizing the laptop market may welcome such a prediction.
However, Roger Kay, president of research company Endpoint Technologies, is less inclined to believe it.
"Netbooks and their low price points are here to stay," Kay told eWEEK.
"They're disruptive to the traditional notebook market and will only improve in quality and performance with time. But once consumers, no matter how well-heeled, get a price point into their heads, they don't give it up easily."