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Researchers, CEA Discuss Netbooks

LAS VEGAS. — At the close of 2008, numerous market researchers and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) weighed in with their assessments of the netbook market.

Display Search, an NPD Group Company, announced last month that it expected mini-note PCs or netbooks to be the “one very bright spot” in what it expected would otherwise be a “rather dismal fourth quarter for the PC industry as a whole.”

The group reported that the netbook category grew at more than 160 percent quarter-on-quarter in the third quarter of 2008. It also said it expected the netbook market to surge to more than 14 million units for the year by the end of 2008, up from less than 1 million in 2007. Growth in this area of the PC industry was expected to be propelled by low prices and a user experience that closely mirrors that of a typical PC.

Others in the industry were less optimistic. In the same month, the CEA announced it was lowering its projections for fourth-quarter growth in the consumer electronics industry. As part of its announcement, the association referred directly to the PC market, saying it was “feeling the impact of the economy” and that it expected the overall computer category would post a year-over-year revenue decline of 2 percent, down slightly from its earlier estimation of a one percent decline. The group credited “greater than expected discounts on laptops and an increased interest in lower-priced netbooks” as reasons for its revised expectations.

Similarly, IDC said it expected overall worldwide PC shipment growth to slow considerably; it also lowered its outlook going forward. Of the netbook segment, Loren Loverde, director of IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker said “low-cost mini notebooks will help volume but pressure margins and revenues.”