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Even though netbooks appeared to be the most popular among ultra mobile devices (UMDs) this year, going forward even smaller and lighter mobile Internet devices (MIDs) will take the lead, according to expectations of ABI Research.

From a virtual “standing start” of just 10 million units in 2008, shipments of ultra-mobile devices, such as ultra-mobile PCs, netbooks and mobile Internet devices, are expected to exceed 200 million in 2013, ABI claims. Obviously, the market will not be able to match unit shipments of devices like cell phones.

“The UMD market will still be small compared to the wireless handset market, but with a forecast revenue of nearly $27 billion in 2013, it will certainly be significant,” said ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis.

While netbooks account for about 90% of today’s UMD market, they will fall to a distant second place by 2013, while MID shipments surge ahead to take nearly 68% of the market, with Ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs) remaining a niche category.

To put the UMD market forecasts into perspective, the 2013 estimate of 200 million shipped devices is roughly the anticipated size of the worldwide laptop PC market.

“As this market enters its rapid growth phase and starts to evolve,” Mr. Solis said, “we will see considerable experimentation with different distribution channels: some will sell direct from the manufacturer, some via retail outlets, and some through mobile operators who will subsidize them to encourage new data plan subscriptions.”

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