Worldwide, some 60 million netbooks are expected to ship this year, a figure that will almost double by 2013, according to new projections from ABI Research. The netbook market has experienced rapid growth since the category was first introduced in 2008, and the trend will begin to decline in 2014-2015, ABI Research said.
While a half dozen vendors enjoyed a 78% share of the market in 2009, shifts are beginning to occur, said principal analyst Jeff Orr. ASUS paved the way in the netbook arena with its Eee PC, followed by Acer, and the two held almost equal one-third shares of the market in 2008. But ASUS lost about half of its market share a year later, Orr said.
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative was commercialized by ASUS, but they "haven't been able to keep up with the scale of production that Acer has,'' he explained, adding that Acer has executed better distribution channels in North America, western Europe, Japan and South Korea. "It could be [Acer has been] willing to spend more money or perhaps they've just been in the right place at the right time" in terms of making good product decisions and responding to the needs of the market.
Acer will continue to maintain a powerful lead, he said, but there are more vendors that have entered the arena and increased their market shares in 2009, notably HP, Dell and Lenovo. Samsung lost a couple of percentage points, Orr added.
He emphasized that netbooks are being purchased as companion-not replacement -- devices in markets that have high PC penetration and broadband services, home networking and typically a very competitive wireless landscape.
"Over time I expect what will be driving shipments around the world will be the emerging markets,'' that don't have widespread broadband and full computers right now. In markets like China and India, netbooks with a traditional clamshell design, because of their pricepoints, will be the first computing devices in homes, he said. Eventually, the cost to deploy home broadband service in developing markets will go down, along with PC prices, and netbooks will lead the way, he said.
ABI Research's latest netbook study debunks some of the myths that exist, Orr said. For example, he called the theory that the only reason netbooks have flourished is because of the recession and people don't want to spend too much on their computing devices, "ludicrous…people understand the value proposition."