While few consumer products benefit from a down economy, the emerging netbook could be the exception. The netbook is not just a new device category with room to grow, but also a rather cheap one, which could spur sales during a global recession. According to ABI Research that low price point could make them a viable alternative to pricier full-featured laptops, especially as cheaper operating systems emerge to drive netbook prices down.
The majority of netbooks shipped last year ran on the Windows XP operating system and were basically miniature versions of a full-featured laptop, said Philip Solis, principal analyst at ABI. But Solis pointed to what he considered the most interesting development in netbooks is at the lower end where smartphone operating systems such as the Linux-based Android and Windows Mobile drive down both the software and hardware costs of the device. For instance, in Dell’s new Mini netbook line, it sells XP-powered netbooks for as much as $700, but has a Linux-powered version $280.
Netbooks had a banner year in 2008, selling 10 million units or about 16% of all notebook PC sales, according to Bernstein Research. In 2012, Bernstein projects that number will increase to 35.5 million and become a major portion of global PC sales. According to ABI’s Solis, 2012 will also be the year when netbooks using mobile operating systems overtake those run on Windows XP.