Netbook Screens Continue to Grow as does the Market


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?



Oh wait, you were asking about 2009, not 2008. We know that 10 million netbooks account for 7% of notebook sales. Thus the entire notebook segment amounted to 142.85 million units in 2008. If it keeps growing at the same 20% pace, and if netbook sales double from 10 to 20 million as predicted by IDC, netbooks will account for half of the notebook growth next year and will reach a 12% share of the entire notebook market.


“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?”

Netbooks account for nearly 7% of the notebook market, according to IDC (Jan. 14, 2009).;jsessionid=HEQTUPRNMNW3OCQJAFICFFAKBEAUMIWD?containerId=prUS21627609

“Mini notebook volume is estimated at near 5 million units in the fourth quarter, bringing the total for 2008 to about 10 million, accounting for nearly 7% of total portables, with shipments expected to double in 2009.”


It seems to me the key for netbook equilibrium (i.e. finding their unique place in the ecology) is staying small and morphing into what a small critter is good for and a big notebook is bad for.

One thing would be a book-reader. This would require a swivel touch screen. That and an Amazon deal that made it Kindle compatible.

The netbook migration to a low end notebook is really weird and shows just how lame the manufacturers are.

I’d far rather have a touch/swivel device that was small w/ great battery life and had functions that would be awkward on my 17″ laptop than the almost-notebook that the netbooks are apparently trying to be.

Netbook Insider Forum

The major selling point (IMO) of netbooks has been their low pricing, not their size. If any of the manufacturers can maintain a low price for a larger device then it will be a huge benefit for us consumers. Whether we call it a 12″ netbook or something else the price is why buyers are even looking at netbooks.

Hans Fairchild

Small Cheap Computing: The best computer (like the best camera) is the one you use. I don’t want to take something with me that weighs 6 pounds, runs for 1.5 hours on a charge, and takes $1000 dollars with it when its lost or stolen. I’ll leave all of that at home thank you very much.

$299 2 pound laptop? That’s a no brainer. Mobile phones cost more than that.


Rick Limpert

I think the perfect screen size for netbooks is in the 9-10 inch range. Anything bigger, I might as well lug around my 15.4 screen like I used to do in the past. I love my Asus 900, it is quick, lets me complete what I need to do, has decent battery life and is a nifty at websurfing. What more could I as for? Kudos to ASUS!

different gear for different needs, people.

sadly, that kind of specialization is bad for the profits, and therefor bad for the share price.

so the companies will try to move things around to see where they can find the biggest overlap at the least production expense.

there is a reason why it was asus and not dell or hp that rolled out the eeepc. profit margins. i suspect these netbooks in their most bare form have a razor thin profit margin. compared to the 12″ ultraportable sold at a business-grade premium…

Brian Goodwin

I currently have a 10 inch netbook (HP Mini 1000). I love it….but I would not mind having just a bit more screen IF it can be done within 3 pounds and cost under $500. If 11 inches is the limit to meet that spec then that is limit of “netbook” in my world.


Today’s Netbooks are toys and there is no competition for business use here. I can’t effectively run a whole bunch of programs I usually do on my X61, heck I can’t even effectively see the MS Outlook on the netbook’s not just physically small but some even low rez screens ( of the 800×600 variety).
Yet the toys are fun and cool shiny pieces of glitter we all love. Without toys and fun there is no need for SLI graphics chipsets in order to proprly address Crysis’ demands.
We measure all these devices by fun… look my iPod can run …DooM :)

Netbooks brought FUN back into computing without costing an arm and a leg or perhaps because of that.


To me I think that for Netbooks the max screen size should 11.1″ thats just me. This should keep the price down for consumers to buy without giving it a second thought. Maybe if the price for these netbooks stay around the 199 to 299 price tag, manualfactures might want to you buy these netbooks as disposable computers. :) You buy one and use it for 6 months buy another. But the real thing is as long as these devices do what most people do on computers like email, internet, Office, etc… they will sell. Kevin has a good point that towards the end of the year netbooks, will have a good percentage of the market.


Kevin, I agree that $299 cannot compare with a $1000+ device. But what a lot of people don’t immediately realize is that the more expensive device can offer much more features and functionality. There is a difference between what people perceive for a toy versus a no-compromise business device.

I don’t want to get into the argument between the eee and the P1120, but for many users the eee simply wouldn’t have cut it for serious business use. With the P1120 I was able to run multiple Windows-based web-enabled business apps on what other folks at that time needed to lug around 12″ and larger laptops – machines that at the time also came in at over $1000.

Hence my wording, full function PC. Business users would have severely been hampered with a non-windows OS, lack of storage and limited expandability of the first eee PC. Today, the situation is much improved as more sophisticated netbook models have come to market that can finally meet and beat the average notebook.

I also agree that use is key, be it as a secondary notebook, casual home use or mobile work use. My mention of the P1120 was made simply because I had ample experience with this device so early on, at a time when everyone else would lug around a 10 lb laptop bag alongside a briefcase.

But going back to your original blog post (sorry for the long rant) I would put the limit for netbooks at 10″. 12″ is clearly in notebook realm where you can accommodate more powerful hardware thanks to space. 12″ is also the point where it becomes just too heavy to carry around all day in one hand, even the slim dv2 at 3.8 lbs won’t match a 10″ 2140 at just 2.6 lbs.


It’s hard to say where netbooks end and notebooks begin, though 12″ seems to me to be pushing the limits. For my purposes, I’d say netbooks stop at 11.1″ and notebooks begin at 12″, but I know that’s pretty arbitrary. I started with a 7″ Eee, then had an Eee 900, and now have a Samsung NC10 (awesome, by the way). I would personally like to see more inexpensive “netbooks” in the 11.1″ space. It’s a great size, but most of them currently are expensive Sony models.

Patrick Moorhead

I am primarily happy to see the consumers getting a lot more choice in panels. My first netbook was 7″, my U820 I think is around 5″, and my ninth netbook I own is 10″. I dont own a 12″ yet. One thing that I would love to see is better resolution scalability. I (your mileage will vary) want a lower resolution on the 5″ maybe 800×600, think the 1024×600 feels good on the 10″, but prefer higher resolution on 12 and 13″. Maybe I am just getting old. :>

Kevin C. Tofel

Luscious, nobody is trying to take anything away from PC makers that offered very portable devices in the past. But there’s a key point missing: price, which clearly affects the adoption rate.

In 2003, the P1120 was priced above $1,600. The devices of today that can meet 80% or more of most people’s needs start around $299, while full-featured laptops still range from $500 to $2500 or or more. You don’t think that’s a key difference between today’s netbook technology and the P1120 used in your example?

I don’t think we’ve neglected the early devices at all; go back and look at the many posts in 2004 & 2005 on the Sony U-series covered here. And we fully realize that small devices in the past are driving devices of today. But frankly, mainstream consumers don’t really care about how we got to the point of a $300 netbook. They just want to know that they can get such a device at a low price point and that it can meet their needs.


It’s funny how suddenly everybody wants to make small notebooks, yet some manufacturers have been doing it for years without all the fanfare.

Rewind six years back to 2003, the very first netbook ever made (although it was called a notebook at the time) was the Fujitsu P1120. This tiniest notebook had a 8.9″ touchscreen, 2.5″ hard drive, Crusoe CPU, Win XP and came with a PCMCIA slot. This 2 lb device delivered full PC functionality in an ultra small web-capable configuration.

Granted, in 2003 not many folks bought one of these – I did because I saw the advantages of the device and knew how to harness it’s potential. Back in those days even pocket PC phones were for geeks and 1xrtt web cards were the norm.

It took a staggering four years after that for Asus to release the eee PC in 2007. Then less than a year after the eee release HP hit an ace with the 2133 mini note. Now we have the HP 2140 and the Sony P series.

It’s great to see netbooks advance so much in the last 12 months, but this is not a 12 month technology advance. When you compare the landscape from 2003 to the market today, more has changed than just notebook technology. Wireless broadband is now faster, widespread and cheaper. Pocket PC phones have advanced to today’s iPhone and Android. And high tech is no longer the realm of geeks, encompassing prosumers and business users.

I think the reason why cell phones are getting bigger and notebooks are getting smaller is web-awareness. Yes, you can surf nicely with an iPhone, but the lack of a keyboard means you won’t be getting any real work done. It’s this “work” aspect where netbooks have hit the nail on the head.

End of rant!


To me, the point where a netbook becomes a notebook is not defined by size of screen alone.

A ‘netbook’ is a cut down system for those that do not require a high resolution screen and super fast processor for most of the time.

They are so staggeringly successful because 80% of people can do 80% of what they need to do with these slower processors and lower res screens.

I personally use my Wind for when I travel, so battery life and size is important to me… but I can imagine others, (like my parents), that would appreciate the larger screen and are never far from an outlet.


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…


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!


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!


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! ;)


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?


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!


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.

Kevin C. Tofel

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.


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 ;)

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