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Netbook PC Market Matures, but it's Growing

This year, almost 60 million netbook PCs are expected to ship worldwide. According to the latest market study by ABI Research, almost double that number will be reaching global markets in 2013.

This forecast is the result of the rapid netbook market growth observed since the introduction of the new computer category in 2008, a trend which will only start to abate in 2014-2015.

I recall back when the first netbook from ASUS was introduced in 2007, industry analysts wondered if there was demand for this new device category. Clearly, they're not questioning the market potential today.

As the netbook market matures, market shares are beginning to shift among vendors. Half a dozen vendors commanded 78 percent of the market in 2009. Acer and ASUS held almost equal one-third shares of the market in 2008, but ASUS didn’t maintain that lead and lost half of its market share in 2009.

"Instead of having a preeminent two," notes principal analyst Jeff Orr at ABI, "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. Most of the others major names -- HP, Dell, Lenovo -- increased their market shares in 2009, while Samsung lost a couple of percentage points."

With the market starting to settle into a stable shape, Orr expects that we'll soon start to see consolidation through attrition, with some of the smaller players exiting the market.

Some firms saw netbooks as an entry point into the PC market. Gigabyte is one example. But with a 2009 market share falling to just 0.1 percent, Gigabyte might be advised to rethink that strategy. Other suppliers, such as the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) initiative, have been hit hard by the global recession.

Consumer interest in netbooks shows no sign of waning, and the attraction remains the same: value rather than raw performance.

Netbooks are not replacing laptops or PCs -- they are being bought as complementary devices. Education remains a strong market driver, and the next several years will see very respectable continuing growth.

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