Eee PC kick-starts a netbook craze

Eee PC kick-starts a netbook craze

A year after the launch of Asus’ Eee PC, industry representatives claim the device has kick-started a mini-laptop craze and carved out a new product category. And with more branded vendors now entering the netbook realm, many predict these low-cost units could represent the biggest PC product sales in the next year.

Ingram Micro Asus product manager, Boris Shen, said the distributor was shipping between 15,000 and 20,000 Asus Eee PCs with either 8.9-inch or 10-inch screens on a quarterly basis. The vendor introduced its first Eee PC with 7-inch display in October last year.

“People are opting for the cheaper alternative. Based on these figures, it’s a massive market and there’s massive demand,” Shen said. “For us, it’s one of the biggest growing categories. If you look at trying to sell just 20,000 notebooks in just one quarter, it’s a very hard task.”

He said most growth stemmed from the mass merchant channel. Gartner’s initial sales figures also suggest the product has mostly been taken up in the home market, although advanced educational organisations are also looking at the Eee PC.

Not surprisingly, Asus held the majority of market share in the mini-notebook space during Q2, senior research analyst, Tracy Tsai, said. During the first half of the year, 473,000 mini-notebooks were shipped across Asia-Pacific, with Australia representing 16 per cent.

“The Asus Eee PC had 82 per cent market share,” Tsai said. “It’s going to increase in 2008 and increase further in 2009.”

The Eee PC, followed by other low-cost PCs based on Intel’s Mobile Internet Device processor, the Atom, has cemented the netbook as a product category in its own right. There are plenty of vendors jumping in: Acer launched the Aspire One mid-year, and HP, Toshiba and Dell have also introduced products into the space. The most recent to hurl itself into the netbook market is NEC, with its Atom-based Versa N1100 retailing for $749.

Intel A/NZ marketing director, Kate Burleigh, cited GfK research figures, which found netbooks representing over 10 per cent of the notebook market.

“From a growth point of view, particularly as a result of Intel launching the Atom processor, we’re seeing more and more designs coming into the market place today,” she said. “It’s no longer just the Eee PC, although that still holds very good ground in the market.”

And as we enter the third quarter, IDC PC analyst, Felipe Rego, predicted more vendors will play in the netbook category.

He said the local netbook category experienced 11.8 per cent growth between the final quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of this year.

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