Laptops and Netbooks
Overall, laptops had a very good year. Netbooks may not have offered manufacturers and operating systems suppliers like Microsoft the best profit margins but consumers took a shine to netbooks and drove their share of the laptop market higher. As mobile computing continued to become increasingly important, we saw little growth in desktop sales year to year. Smartphones may become a more important player in the mobile computing market as consumers report being able to do more computing functions on devices like iPhones and other smartphones but laptops and netbooks still appear to be the computer of choice at work, home, school, and on the road.
Good Year-Over-Year Growth

Demand in all laptops (including netbooks) is up over 20% from this time last year. Laptops had a good holiday season and then demand dropped off last spring as prices held steady. The back to school season may have helped drive demand higher this past summer but demand has just keep rising possibly fueled by Windows 7 and great laptop deals this holiday season.

Smaller and Cheaper

Not only have the under $400 netbook lowered the average price of all laptops, we are seeing many full-sized laptops with 15 inch screens from major brands like HP and Toshiba selling for under $600.

Netbooks Are the Big Story This Year

Netbook sales have been strong all year and particularly strong this Black Friday. We saw netbooks and laptops running side by side this fall. The Windows 7 launch on October 22nd created a small increase in demand for both laptops and netbooks however around Black Friday we saw netbooks overtake laptops by quite a wide margin.

Windows 7 Help Laptop Sales
After a lengthy beta cycle, Windows 7 officially launched on October 22nd. A Retrevo study on Windows 7 asked consumers if they were planning to buy a new computer when Windows 7 was released. Retrevo wanted to know how many consumers might use Windows 7 as an excuse to buy a new computer. After all, why struggle with an upgrade to the OS and scramble to find the right drivers when you can let Dell or HP provide a complete working system, drivers and all?

Over one third of respondents who said they have been intending to buy a computer this year, said they have been waiting for Windows 7. An even larger percentage said Windows 7 was a ‘good motivation.’

The Year Ahead

We expect 2010 to be a great year for laptops in general and netbooks in particular. Google’s introduction of Chrome OS based laptops/netbooks will have a major impact on consumers’ perception of these computing devices and the applications used on a day-to-day basis. We also expect more innovation coming out of Microsoft to make laptops more usable and fun, including a broader adoption of Windows 7 multi-touch. We don’t expect Apple to be left behind – we will keep an eye on the much rumored Apple Tablet.

We are hopeful about the promise held by new processors like Intel's line of CULV (ultra low voltage) that allows laptops to run for 8 hours on a charge and it’s new Atom processor-based Pinetrail chips with “Intel inside” graphics engine

The Rumored Apple Tablet
The rumors of an Apple tablet have circulated all year. Right now it looks likely that Apple will introduce a tablet device around March (or later) of 2010. One Retrevo study that looked at the Apple tablet turned up some interesting data concerning pricing and Mac vs non-Mac users.
With a rumored price of $800, Apple is going to have an easier time getting Mac owners to pay for a tablet than non-Mac owners. In the study, 68% of Mac owners said they would pay more than $600 for a tablet. PC owners don’t seem to have the same pain threshold as Mac owners with only 36% of PC owners saying they’d be willing to pay more than $600.
Next: e-Reader - Year in Review »
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Jennifer Jacobson
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