2009 – The Year of the Netbook (Not the Year of the Smartphone or MIDs)

Netbooks A new report by ABI Research claims that 2009 should be the break-out year for ultraportable netbooks. They believe that up to 35 million of the devices will sell this year, with those numbers climbing to over 135 million by 2013.

ABI believes that a large part of the reason for the projected growth is because netbooks are filling an important demand that Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) and smartphones are not able to fill, as far as having a clear usage model:

“In recent years, the industry still expected the smartphones to be more than they turned out to be, and most recently, MIDs were thought to be the next big mobile devices segment, but an unclear usage model continues to confuse the market,” ABI analyst Kevin Burden said in a statement. “So today, netbooks’ time has come, and ABI Research expects them to enjoy very strong market growth.”

According to InformationWeek, the report does give credit to smartphones, saying they paved the way for netbooks, because they were able to introduce people to what was possible with mobile devices and web/internet access.

InformationWeek also mentions that market intelligence and research firms Gartner and IDC also believe there will be strong growth when it comes to netbooks. They also mention that netbooks have had some problems with customers not being satisfied with performance or expectations, and I agree with that to an extent.

Based on some of the advertising I’ve seen, I think many people could come away with a much higher expectation of what a netbook can do versus what a netbook is actually suitable for, especially if they think a netbook can replace a conventional small (or smaller) laptop/notebook. We’ve gotten to a point where fairly powerful hardware is very affordable these days (and is about to get more affordable over the next year or two), but at the same time if you looked at an Intel Atom-based netbook from a pure processing point of view, it’s a step back. Early last year, My Digital Life posted some benchmarks where Intel Atoms were compared to Celeron Ms, as well as some of the Pentium Ms that were available in laptops prior to Intel introducing the Core Duo and Core 2 Duo CPUs/platforms. It was able to hold its own against an older generation of Pentium Ms, the Pentium M (Tualatin) clocked at 1.13GHz, but the Dothan-based Pentium M as well as some of the Pentium 4 models tested did perform better.

With that said, you are getting what amounts to a cheap, lightweight, very portable device that can do quite a bit of what many people need. In years past, getting a laptop with an 8.9″ or 10″ display was a very expensive proposition.

I do think manufacturers are catching on – we had a recent article about netbook marketing showing that the retail sector as well as the netbook makers are catching on – HP and Acer are both spelling out just what netbooks are suitable for.

ABI Research