There’s an interesting phenomenon going on right now and I’m still trying to get my head around it. Netbooks originally offered a new product choice: full laptop features with a 7-inch display. That screen proved to be a bit small for some and also didn’t provide […]

Asus Eee PC S121

Asus S121

There’s an interesting phenomenon going on right now and I’m still trying to get my head around it. Netbooks originally offered a new product choice: full laptop features with a 7-inch display. That screen proved to be a bit small for some and also didn’t provide enough room for an efficient keyboard. So netbooks moved up to 8.9-inch displays and higher resolution.  Ten-inch displays quickly followed, which brings you closer to the 12- and 13-inch small notebook segment. But things didn’t stop there, did they?

Late last year, Dell introduced their Dell Inspiron Mini 12 netbook, which offers a 12-inch display and larger keyboard to boot. Asus is the next one on the 12-inch bandwagon, officially announcing their S121. And at CES we saw a “tweener” from HP with the AMD-powered dv2. More to follow on that one because it’s definitely more than netbook and we’ve got a review unit in the works.

While it’s not up to me to define this market, it makes me wonder: how big is too big in terms of a netbook? Manufacturers clearly feel there’s some room in between the standard netbook market and the smallish notebook market, or they wouldn’t be offering 12-inch devices. I have to believe that’s going to be the max, but with Asus churning out new Eee PC models all the time, you never know. You’d think this doesn’t matter, but it does and in more ways than one.

The bigger the screen, the more a large netbook will be compared to small notebook. There are also OS implications as well, since Microsoft doesn’t want XP on devices with screens larger than 10-inches or so. It’s possible that some OEMs have worked out special Windows deals as both the S121 and Mini 12 can be had with XP. The other scenario is that Microsoft is giving up on the whole ULCPC standards which originally limited the specs for a low-cost Windows XP device.

The point is this: I believe that notebook makers are recognizing the shift. That shift is the realization that for a secondary (if not primary, in some cases), a less expensive netbook can handle the vast majority of tasks you need when not chained to a desk. Oh, there’s still a huge market for very capable notebooks. I’m not arguing that point at all. But the days of cramming features and robust CPUs into a notebook are stepping aside for a new type of device. One that is inexpensive and easier to tote around.

We’ve often heard that the netbook market is a subset of the notebook market. I’m beginning to think that it is truly its own market. It’s redefining the traditional notebook market and in some sense, becoming a competitor to it. I’ll be very interested to see what percentage of netbooks make up the entire notebook market at the end of this year. My gut says near 25%. What do you think?

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  1. i love the idea of 25% marketshare for netbooks, seriously :)
    But i am a little bit scared of these netbooks with screensizes above 10.2 inch. Here is why:

    There are 3 things customers are looking for in a netbook:

    long battery life
    low pricepoint
    small formfactor

    Right now we will see all these larger ones but with netbook or even MID hardware. I mean this is a consumer product and i am sure that most of the potential buyers will just see the size of it and then compare the price to an ordinary subnotebook for let’s say double the price.

    That’s were the problem begins cause these customers are expecting the same performance, cause they have no clue about these different hardware specs.

    1.6 Ghz sounds great, when you dunno anything about the Intel Atom or VIA Nano but as soon as they try to open the 4th or 5th tab in their browser and have to take a coffee break…

    i see a huge potential for some really interesting support issues for these “netbook” manufacturers ;)

  2. Kevin C. Tofel Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Sascha, I tend to agree. As screen sizes get larger, you compromise in terms of battery run-time and price. These two factors have helped the netbook market take off and have differentiated them from traditional notebooks. When we get the numbers at the end of the year, a more interesting data point will be the percentage of netbooks sold at the different display sizes. 8.9 & 10-inch will have far more share than 12-inches, I think.

  3. MSI introed an Air knock off recently. I think it is 13″

  4. I think what we’ll find in 2009 is that the lines between netbooks/notebooks will be blurred completely.
    We’re already starting to see some netbooks cost more than full-sized notebooks.
    The good news is there will be a lot more diversity in the sub $700 space no matter what you want to call them.

  5. My humble opinion:
    One size won’t fit all and if the cost is low and profit big, then multiple lines of net books should work for the manufacturers…something for everybody, yahoo!

    Small netbooks are a strain to my old eyes. I have been using a Panasonic R3 (2.2 lb) for 3 yr now and have had “oohs…and ahhs” for years…I love the thing..however…the 10.1 inch screen is getting too small for me….especially when I have to do a lot of powerpoint editing on the road…

    In my mind the light weights with “bigger screens” like the Sony Z are not the answer cause the vertical real estate of the screen is too narrow…

    I need something at about the 11-12 inch range (and not wide screen like the Z)…but don’t want to lug more than 3 lb around…so for me I want the combo of good screen real estate AND light weight…and of course low price – $500-600 (this later requirement throws computers like the Fujitsu 8020, HP 2530P, Lenovo U110 etc out).

    BTW…I’ve never missed not having an optical drive on my R3! Just record your TV, rip your DVDs and download them to the hard drive!

  6. IMO 11″ is the absolute limit for a netbook… anything larger and you have a subnotebook. Also at 11″ they should also be pretty thin (1″ or less). I mean, if you have a 12″ netbook, why not spend a just a bit more for a 13″ subnotebook with a nice core 2 duo?

  7. Another sighting: VIA’s Tim Brown mentioned an upcoming 11.6″ screen device in a liliputing vid…

    I think netbooks will top out at 13″ screens INCLUDING bezel. Which is a ~11.6″ screen with a bezel the size of my 1000HA, but could easily fit a 12″ screen with minimal trim.

    The reason? Keyboard.

    If you do the math that’s the size needed to hit 100% sized keys.

    Increased res is also nice as netbook owners have noticed the mass of software that assumes you have at least 768 vertical pixels, but as the Sony P has shown that is only loosely based on screen size! ;)

  8. I’m starting to wonder when a the netbook will turn into a laptop. Or I suppose more correctly when laptops downsize to a netbook size but still maintain there processing power – will there be a screen size which determines what you can call a netbook?

    Or will it be laptop/sublaptop/netbook!

  9. yea.. i’m guessing more along the 18-20% market share for netbooks.

    like others have said; the larger sizes will ‘trick’ consumers into thinking they are getting a real notebook and not a netbook and in turn could cause some headaches for such manufacturers/support lines. 11″ is the largest i’d buy. my msi wind is perfect imo.

    however the good thing is that us consumers finally have gotten the portable laptop that we all can afford and proved to the industry that netbooks are here to stay!

  10. gmazin makes a good point… an 11-12″ netbook should be THIN as the added width should give you more space.

    Weight also contributes to the portability so companies will have to watch that too… and keep them under $600 – or we’re leaving netbook territory…

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