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It looks like the popularity of netbooks is beginning to drop and shipments growth to slow down: a media report claims that three top vendors of ultra low cost personal computers faced lower-than-expected demand towards netbooks in the first quarter of 2009. Perhaps, this is start of the end for netbooks and their transformation into low-cost ultra-portables, or maybe it is just consequences of global recession.

Acer Group, the world’s largest supplier of netbooks, originally planned to ship about two million Acer Aspire One systems in Q1 2009, but actual sales were lower. Asustek Computer hoped that it would ship one million Asus Eee PC systems during the quarter, but actual sales were only 900 thousand units, reports DigiTimes web-site. MicroStar International supplied only 200 thousand of its Wind-series netbooks. Shipments of all three vendors in Q1 2009 were considerably below their shipments in Q3 2008, but the first quarter is traditionally rather slow.

Officials for the aforementioned companies did not comment on the numbers.

Observers quoted by the media outlet claim that slow sales were a result of maturing of “key sales regions” as well as “incomplete penetration” into emerging markets. But there could be different reasons as well: sales of all personal computers were below expectations in Q1 2009 and netbooks are not exclusive here; consumers started to understand that technical limitations of netbooks limit user experience; consumers are not satisfied with existing models due to certain reasons.

Acer and MSI reportedly plan to offset the drop of netbook sales with shipments of ultra-portable notebooks aimed at consumers later in the year. Besides, they also plan to reduce investments into netbooks in general, which may be an indicator that the companies do not believe in the rebound of sales of netbooks.

It is unclear how Asustek Computer wants to address the decline of popularity of Eee PC systems. A spokesperson for the company speaking to X-bit labs earlier this month said that consumers in well-developed countries now prefer more advanced netbooks with 10” screens and are willing to pay for them, which may mean that Asustek plans to further concentrate on improving netbooks and close the gap between them and notebooks.

“From what we may see in the market situation, it is clear that the markets in the Western countries have already adopted higher price-points and customers prefer to have 10” products with good features and long battery life,” the spokesperson for Asustek said.

Tags: Acer, ASUS, MSI, Intel, CULV, Eee PC, Aspire, Wind

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