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Netbooks quickly being relegated to niche

The data points highlighting slower netbook growth ahead are beginning to stack up. Simply put, consumers are opting for either tablets like the iPad or ultra-thin laptops over netbooks. The netbook is headed for niche-ville.

The data points highlighting slower netbook growth ahead are beginning to stack up. Simply put, consumers are opting for either tablets like the Apple's iPad or ultra-thin laptops over netbooks. The netbook is headed for niche-ville.

In three years, the netbook may be just a nice footnote to the industry. The demise of the netbook has been predicted before. Now we seem to be at an inflection point where the anti-netbook bandwagon is filling up.

Raphael Vasquez, an analyst at Gartner summed up the view, in its PC market forecast:

The mini-notebook segment will be impacted by increasingly competitive ultralow-voltage (ULV) products, the decreasing prices of all mobile PCs and the maturing preferences of consumers...Media tablets, such as the iPad and similar devices, will significantly detract from mini-notebook shipments in 2013 and onward, when we expect their prices to be lower and, more importantly, their functionality to be more similar to mini-notebooks.

Meanwhile, the Retrevo Pulse Study, a survey of more than 1,000 consumers, tells a similar tale. According to Retrevo, "the double whammy of cheaper laptops and the sensational new Apple iPad tablet may be hurting netbook popularity."

A few data points from Retrevo:

  • In the past year, 65 percent of those surveyed chose a laptop over a netbook;
  • Future buying decisions break down the same way;
  • Meanwhile, 78 percent of potential buyers are leaning toward buying an iPad over a netbook.

Now growth isn't going away overnight for netbooks, but you can see where this is headed. Gartner estimates that netbook shipments will be up 30 percent in 2010, but then start to slide. In addition, PC makers are likely to focus on the tablet form factor and move away from the netbooks. Intel's move to take the Atom to smartphones may also indicate that the netbook's big surge is over.

The netbook isn't dead yet, but will clearly be a niche player going forward.

Related: Apple iPad: One heat seeking missile aimed at netbooks, e-readers