The humble netbook refuses to die

Remember all those talking heads who predicted that tablets and low-cost laptops would kill off the humble netbook? Well, consumer interest in such entry-level devices has apparently shown little sign of waning.

Indeed, according to principal ABI analyst Jeff Orr, netbooks are not replacing laptops or PCs – but they are being purchased as complementary platforms.

”The attraction remains the same: value rather than raw performance. And this year, almost 60 million netbooks are expected to ship worldwide,” Orr told TG Daily in an e-mailed statement.

“Education remains a strong market driver, and the next several years will see very respectable continuing growth.”

Orr also noted that netbook market shares were “beginning to shift” amongst various manufacturers.

“Half a dozen vendors commanded 78% of the market in 2009. Acer and Asus (which pioneered the whole netbook concept with its Eee PC) 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.

“[So], instead of having a preeminent two, it looks as if only Acer will continue to maintain its commanding lead. 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.”

However, Orr predicted that the market, which was “starting to settle” into stable shape, would begin to experience “consolidation through attrition,” with certain smaller players exiting the crowded sector.

“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%, 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,” he added.