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Amid massive layoffs in almost every industry as well as dropping incomes, the time is right for the netbook. Consumers are cutting their spending and reconsider the technology they use in daily routine. As a result, miniature low-cost energy-saving netbooks may be considered as a good-enough option by many.

According to analysts at ABI Research, a confluence of social and technological factors has created a kind of “perfect storm” that will lead to a market explosion for netbooks over the next few years. The firm forecasts worldwide shipments of nearly 35 million this year, rising to an estimated 139 million in 2013.

“PDA’s began our reliance on instant accessible data while traveling. When PDA functionality converged with cellular voice, smartphones became the new darling of mobile professional technology that many expected to evolve into the hub for all data and communication needs for travelling professionals. Today, with a better understanding for what a smartphone is, is not, and may never be, along with a reality check on the usefulness of UMPCs, the market remains open for new device types,” practice director Kevin Burden from ABI said.

Smartphones did a lot to raise our comfort level with mobile technology as well our expectations for how connected we could be and how accessible information and data should be while on the road. Enter the netbook with its light-weight, medium-sized form factor and low-cost processors leading to moderate overall price points may finally have “right-sized” mobile technology for productive travels.

While the advent of low-cost, power stingy x86 and ARM processors were the technical keys to netbooks, Mr. Burden argues that industry and consumer expectations also needed to evolve before netbooks would meet market acceptance.

“In recent years, the industry still expected the smartphones to be more than they turned out to be, and most recently, MIDs were thought to be the next big mobile devices segment, but an unclear usage model continues to confuse the market. So today, netbooks’ time has come, and ABI Research expects them to enjoy very strong market growth,” the analyst said.

It should be noted that ABI’s predictions concerning netbooks may be too optimistic: analysts from DRAMeXchange are more conservative and predict that in 2009 about 22.7 million of netbooks will be shipped.

Tags: Intel, Cortex, Via, C7, Nano

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