According to Gartner analyst Raphael Vasquez, low-end notebooks are edging netbooks out of the limelight. Was the netbook a "bad times" notebook that people turned to because of the low price tag?
This is what Vasquez had to say:
"Buyers who once would have bought a mini-notebook based solely on its low price now seem more inclined to buy a low-end standard notebook, especially since the prices of the two have converged. Mini-notebooks are slowly but surely carving out a market niche for themselves as companion devices. However, the emergence of media tablets is a growing threat to that niche."
Gartner's predictions are that netbook sales will freefall from accounting for a massive 20% of all mobile PC sales at the end of 2009, to a modest 10% by the end of 2014.
Netbooks were an oddity. They started life as small, cheap devices designed to run Linux, but then quickly took on a life of their own, becoming mini-notebooks running Windows. I think that the popularity of the netbook caught everyone by surprise. Microsoft had to turn to XP even though Vista was out simply because Vista wasn't capable of running on the diminutive device because of its voracious system requirements, especially in the graphics department. OEMs scrabbled to come up with increasingly cheaper and better netbooks in an attempt to outdo each other. Consumers, lured by the price, mistakenly saw them as notebooks with a smaller screen, and many expected more performance than the little device could offer.
So, what's changed?
Well, first off, people aren't as price-sensitive as they were last year. People have (or at least feel like they have) more money to splash around and don't feel locked in to the budget end.
Then there's the fact that notebooks are both better and cheaper than they were last year. Notebooks are now around the same price that a decent netbook was selling at, so there's no need settle for a small screen anymore.
Then there's tablets. Tablets have been around for years, but as far as most consumers were concerned they didn't exist until Apple unveiled the iPad. This new device offers consumers many of the benefits of a netbook packaged in a super-sexy form factor. And the price is pretty competitive too.
Given the pressures on the netbook sector, I'd be surprised if they even account for 10% of mobile PC sales by 2014, especially once OEMs start getting tablets powered by Windows out of the door.