Netbooks just a flash in the pan?

Tue Dec 2, 2008 2:36PM EST

If it seems that every computer company in the world (except Apple, of course) has an inexpensive netbook on the market, that’s because they do. These cheap, low-power laptops have been all the rage for a year and counting.

Now Intel, whose Atom chip powers the bulk of today’s netbooks, is rethinking the category. While originally envisioned as way to extend technology to emerging markets, children, and other price-sensitive environments, actual sales of the devices show a somewhat different picture. Most netbooks aren’t being sold to these users at all, but rather to upscale customers in North America and Europe, where they’re being used as a “grab and go” laptop by users who already have a primary use machine.

As such, Intel is calling the netbook “mostly incremental” to their market, implying that sales will not be sustainable since they are coming from existing buyers and not new overseas markets, as had been hoped.

Overall the company seems largely bearish on the device that has, in many minds, saved the computing category from being devastated by the economic recession, complaining (as many have) that their low power and small size makes them bearable for an hour at a time, and that’s about it. AMD isn’t making a netbook-focused chip, either, instead choosing to focus on thin and light laptops — which command far higher prices. The company is on record as saying that it is completely “ignoring the netbook phenomenon.”

For now, at least, netbooks are still selling incredibly strongly. Yesterday’s Cyber Monday tally showed netbooks dominating the tech category at Amazon.com, with the top six computer products sold being mini-notebooks. How long can these pint-sized ‘puters keep this up? And what will happen if they suddenly stop their mad domination of the market?

~ by robeshare on December 16, 2008.

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