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Smartbook won't replace smartphones, maybe netbooks

While consumers are unlikely to give up their phones for smartbooks, they may do so for netbooks, says industry analyst.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Consumers will not give up their smartphones for smartbooks, but may be more inclined to forgo their netbooks for the latter, according to a market analyst.

Allen Nogee, wireless technology analyst at In-Stat, said the smartbook might be "a hard sell" because consumers will not give up their smartphones. "And if they are going to carry something, it needs to be a fair bit more powerful and have a larger screen than a smartphone," he said in an e-mail interview.

Companies including Qualcomm, Freescale Semiconductor and Advanced Micro Devices, are championing the smartbook as an alternative to the netbook market, currently dominated by Intel.

Sized between smartphones and small notebooks, smartbooks are marketed as a device that combines "the simplicity and connectivity of smartphones, with the power and usability of laptops", according to Qualcomm's hellosmartbook.com Web site.

Size does matter
As far as mobile devices are concerned, Nogee said consumers seem to prefer products that fall into typical size groups. Laptop computers have been "the mainstay" but with more air travel, the netbook "works for many people" as well, he said.

"On the other side, most people already carry a phone so they want to do all they can with it," the analyst said, referring to the smartphone.

"The in-between [device] size is a tough one because it can be too large to put in your pocket and too small for most PC tasks, like working on spreadsheets," he said."This size class has appeared before as the ultra-mobile computer or even mobile Internet device (MID), but sales have been quite low."

Asked if he sees the smartbook cannibalizing the netbook or smartphone market, Nogee said it is more likely to threaten the netbook than the smartphone segment.

He explained that it is unlikely consumers will give up smartphone as "users will carry a phone no matter what". However, it is possible they may be willing to do so for the netbook, he said.

"With phones getting more powerful, it's much more likely you will see someone carrying a smartphone and a netbook, rather than just a smartbook." he noted. "They would instead carry a smartphone all the time, and a netbook when they have too". Hence, smartbooks will more likely be an alternative to the netbook, Nogee said.

Research firm Gartner, estimates that there will be some 412 million smartphones worldwide by 2014. According to analyst Canalys, 13.5 million netbooks were sold across the globe in the first half of 2009, where this product segment was the only PC sector to enjoy growth this year.

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