This new device category has become a buzz word. Netbooks are cheaper and lower-spec machines compared to their more advanced counterparts and are designed for light users wanting quick and easy mobile Internet and PC access. Netbooks are expected to lift off in 2009 as the declining economy takes its toll across all segments of the market and consumers shy away from expensive luxury models in favour of more basic devices.
Ever since Asus launched its first Eee PC in December 2007 with a $499 price tag, netbooks have taken the consumer market by storm. And even though they have basic notebook features, these units are making waves within the corporate and consumer space among first- and second-time notebook buyers.
Since then, Asus has released higher-spec versions of Eee PC and begun targeting fashionistas. Other vendors have followed Asus’ lead into the netbook segment such as Acer with its Aspire One line, HP, Toshiba and latest entrant, NEC.
Ingram Micro business manager, Vladimir Mitnovetski, said traditional notebook sales were still strong, but wouldn’t be surprised if netbooks accounted for 20 to 30 per cent of sales next year.
“There was a need for this market segment. We’ve never had a small, light and good performance notebook at this price range,” he said. “Before the netbook appearance, the cheapest in this sub-$1000 space was a Celeron-based machine, but they’re quite big and bulky, however they did offer full performance.”
Mitnovetski said uptake of netbooks had been particularly strong in the retail segment.
“Asus is certainly the biggest business for us and we’re doing about $2 million to $2.5 million a month, mostly in the retail segment,” he said. “Acer and HP are also doing very well. We started with MSI a couple of months ago, and already we’re up to $1 million a month.”
But despite the hype, Asus product manager for notebooks and Eee PC, Albert Liang, said Australia’s netbook uptake was slower compared to the rest of world.
“Australia is still very notebook dominated,” he said. “The exchange rate as well as more vendors entering the market will see the demand grow for netbooks next year without a doubt.”
Repeat notebook buyers have become more tech savvy consumers, according to Toshiba product marketing manager, Justin White.
“They want something smaller, lighter, bigger or faster and they know exactly what they want to do with it and how they work,” White said.
On the green
According to IDC PC analyst, Felipe Rego, green messaging and awareness within the notebook market is still a new and developing segment. However, more efficient components will help make this a stronger influencer in 2009.