Is the netbook doomed?

Has the recent tablet craze sentenced the humble netbook to an untimely death?

Well, don’t write the netbook off just yet. 

Indeed, a recent study published by Retrevo concluded that such devices will continue to “get cheaper and faster,” as they evolve into an “attractive alternative” to laptops and other MIDs.

“However, don’t expect to see the record growth continue for netbook sales in the US,” explained Retrevo analyst Andrew Eisner.

“As consumers find the iPad irresistible and inexpensive laptops more practical we predict netbook sales will get squeezed from two sides and will not be able to maintain past growth rates.”

According to Eisner, Apple may have “grabbed” 30% of netbook buyers who held off purchasing a netbook and eventually decided on an iPad.

“It looks like consumers who are [now] struggling with the decision to buy an iPad or a netbook are overwhelmingly leaning toward an iPad with 78% in that group going for the iPad,” said Eisner.

“[And] of those consumers who wrestled with the decision to buy a netbook or laptop, 65% chose the laptop and 35% chose a netbook over a laptop…The story looks much the same for those now considering a laptop or netbook over the coming year with 35% leaning toward a netbook over a laptop and 65% leaning toward a laptop over a netbook.”

Eisner added that packaging and portability – rather than price – are likely to become critical selling points for the netbook. 

“They used to say that in high tech everything tends to get smaller, cheaper and faster. We might add ‘runs longer’ but whatever you want to say is the most attractive feature of netbooks, price is low on the list. 

“With netbooks selling close in price to the cheaper laptops, it looks like packaging and portability could become the strongest selling points.”