Research firm IDC has confirmed that ultra small, ultra cheap laptops are outpacing the rest of the PC industry in the EMEA market and the momentum is unlikely to decline in 2009.
In Q4 2008, 3.6 million units were sold which represents 20 percent of total laptop sales and 30 percent of consumer laptops sold during that period. In other words, the netbook market is worth nearly two third of the business laptop market in terms of units sold.
Netbooks (or as IDC calls them mini notebooks) have been one of the most sought-after items in Christmas season last year and represented more than four fifths of the sales volumes in Western Europe.
There are currently more than 50 vendors in this segment offering a bewildering array of netbooks design although most of them share the same basic configuration (Windows XP, Atom base unit, 10.2-inch, 1GB Ram).
Mobile network companies have been instrumental in making mini-laptops more popular thanks to "free" laptops bundles being offered to entice customers to subscribe to wireless broadband packages. (see our Top 5 UK "Free Laptop" Broadband Deals comparison)
Acer has pipped Asus as the leading mini-notebook vendor with nearly 1.1 million units shipped, compared to Asus's 1.01 million. Samsung, Dell and HP make up the top 5 vendors.
IDC notes that the trend is unlikely to decrease in 2009 with touchscreen models appearing later this year with sales fuelled by the probable release of Windows 7; furthermore, AMD and ARM are expected to join the bandwagon, adding even more competition to the market.
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Netbooks have been the most refreshing trend in the last few years and bucked the trend of bigger, badder and slower. The fact that they are essentially 10 year old miniaturised laptops running on 10 year old Windows XP proves a point; that manufacturers have long overlooked the fact that they should design products with their customers in mind, not their shareholders. How long wil Sony and Apple stay out of the game?