Netbooks continue to sustain PC market

The era of the mini-laptop or netbook is here, confirms IDC, as it predicts sustained growth that will support the PC market through 2009.

The age of the netbook has arrived, according to new figures from IDC - in case anyone still doubts the popularity of the cheap and cheerful mini-notebooks.

The analyst firm said yesterday that robust consumer demand in Western Europe led Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) mini-notebook' shipments, as it refers to them, to reach 3.6 million units in the run up to Christmas.

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Overall, these shipments represented 20 per cent of total portable PC sales and 30 per cent of portables sold in the region during the fourth quarter of 2008.

IDC said the boom in growth of the portable laptops followed a major surge in the back-to-school season, where they are now positioned as ultra-affordable, secondary devices to full-size laptop and desktop PCs.

"Driven by strong vendor and channel push, consumers benefited from the plethora of new models appearing on the shelves from October onwards, and the explosion in the product offering stimulated fierce competition for shelf space," said Eszter Morvay, research manager at IDC's EMEA personal computing group.

Morvay observed that, following in the footsteps of Asus, there were currently more than 50 vendors in the space, ranging from international manufacturers to local assemblers.

IDC also forecast "robust" double-digit growth in 2009, with strong vendor push remaining one of the key market drivers, as well as demand from the education sector. It said most were working on expanded product portfolios with increased distinction between entry-level, mainstream, and even higher-end models.

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And it predicted larger, 10-inch or convertible touch screens with integrated 3G, as well as Wi-Fi, technology would appear towards the end of the year.

The fixed and mobile operators would also continue to play a pivotal role in the development of this market in the region. The analyst said mini-notebooks offered a better fit than traditional PCs in terms of value proposition, being small and attractive products at lower price, they therefore hold lower subsidy costs.

The top two vendors during the last quarter of 2008 were Acer with 30 per cent market share and Asus with 28 per cent. The were followed a long way behind by HP with seven per cent, Samsung with six per cent and Dell on four per cent.

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