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Even though netbooks have managed to take a huge share of the market by storm, after sales of netbook-specific Intel Atom processors collapsed in Q1 2010, many analysts started to be rather conservative about performance of “mini notebooks” going forward. But not ABI Research, which believes that shipments of netbooks will total 58 million units in 2010.

Starting in February, 2009, ABI Research forecast that approximately 35 million netbooks would ship into world markets in the course of the year. That estimate was viewed in some quarters as unrealistically high. However the final 2009 shipment numbers – 36.3 million netbooks shipped — have confirmed that the forecast was perhaps a little conservative. Other analyst firm – DisplaySearch – estimated that shipments of netbooks reached 34.1 million in 2009, so, in general the assessments are very similar.

For 2010, DisplaySearch predicts shipments of netbooks to increase by 28.5% to 43.8 million units. But ABI seems to be much more optimistic: in 2010 it expects netbook shipments to reach 58 million. At the same time, a new element has been added to the mobile consumer electronics market equation: the media tablet, initially personified by Apple’s iPad. How will mobile CE markets react to a “new kid on the block” so soon after the start of the netbook craze?

“We expect the netbook market to fragment according to different regional value propositions. Functionality will be added to mainstream netbook products while at the same time an entry-level netbook solution will grow, with the aim of targeting some large emerging markets (including China and India) where PC penetration is still quite low,” says principal analyst Jeff Orr.

At the same time, ABI Research sees the pace of netbook market growth slowing to a CAGR of 23%, as media tablets start to steal some netbook thunder. The firm forecasts media tablet sales of about eight million in 2010.

“Apple’s claimed shipments of one million iPads in the first month are impressive starting from zero, but even our total media tablet forecast falls far short of what anyone would call mass market adoption,” said Mr. Orr.

While it was understood that Apple could put together a good consumer solution and take significant early market share, there are lots of opportunities for others; it’s a question of how they come to market: solo, as Apple has done, or in conjunction with network operator and distribution partners.

Tags: Intel

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