Netbooks rocket in popularity – especially when they’re free

Netbooks are experiencing a surge in popularity, with shipments growing twice as fast as for larger notebooks.

According to DisplaySearch, the total notebook market performed pretty well in the second quarter this year, with more than 38 million units sold.

The market for larger notebooks grew nicely – 22 percent over the previous quarter – but this was dwarfed by the growth rate for netbooks, which topped 40 percent. Netbooks now account for 22 percent of the total notebook market.

This ought to be good news for Asus, which pretty much invented the netbook. But according to DisplaySearch, the company is steadily losing market share to the likes of  Acer, HP, Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba.

Part of the reason for the big rise in shipments is good old bribery. In many regions, telecom providers have been offering subsidized netbooks, and in Western Europe, some are giving them away. The same is starting to happen in North America, but it’s too early for this to have had much effect on shipments.

And things can always change. “In addition to many other key players in the supply chain, Microsoft indicated it is their desire to increase the ASP of mini-notes,” said John F Jacobs, DisplaySearch’s Director of Notebook Market Research. “A significant increase to the ASP of mini-notes may deter consumers that are predominantly using mini-notes as secondary PCs.”