Research firm ABI put out a report this week that estimates that netbook shipments could reach 35 million units this year, and as many as 139 million in 2013. While there’s no doubt that netbooks are the fastest growing segment of the cmputer industry right now, it seems a bit strange to be making predicitons 4 years in advance about a product category that didn’t even exist 18 months ago. But I guess it all depends on how you categorize netbooks.
I like to think a netbook is a computer with a 10 inch or smaller screen that weighs around 3 pounds or less, and carries a relatively low price tag (typically between $300 and $600). Odds are that by 2013 we’ll see dramatically different machines fitting that description than we have today. We’re already starting to see companies like Asus and Intel push convertible tablet-style devices with full keyboards. NVIDIA wants to put discrete graphics chips in low cost mini-laptops. Who knows what’s next?
In the meantime, other companies are convinced that you can’t have a full computing experience without a larger screen and keyboard and faster processor, so they’re pushing a different class of thin and light device with better performance and higher price tag.
So will netbooks become popular enough to hit 139 million shipments in 2013? Maybe. But they might not be netbooks like the ones we see today.