Netbooks, we hardly knew ye

Tablets may doom formerly 'hot' lightweight mobile computer to market fringe

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Well, it's not like you couldn't see this coming.

The demand for tablet computers continued to grow in the third quarter, according to technology research firms IDC and Gartner. And the increasing popularity of tablets comes at the expense of -- you guessed it -- other mobile computers, particularly netbooks.

From IDG News Service:

IDC said overall PC shipments in the third quarter totaled 89.3 million units, up by 10.5 percent, or about 3 percent below the analyst firm's expectations. IDC did not count tablet shipments in the survey.

The slower-than-expected growth was a result of tepid consumer spending, especially in the U.S., where PC shipments grew only 3.8 percent year over year, well below the original 11.7 percent growth projection.

That strikes me as a pretty optimistic growth projection in the face of the tablet buzz created by Apple's iPad -- now reportedly the fastest-selling electronic device in history -- and the expected response from competitors. RIM, Samsung, Toshiba and Dell all are entering the tablet game. So too are major netbook manufacturers Acer and Asus.

IDC research director David Daoud said tablets had the biggest impact on netbooks, telling IDG News Service, "If media tablets are meant for media consumption, the PC as a productivity tool is fairly safe. It's the second tool, the netbook, that is unsafe."

Daoud added that while some consumers still will prefer netbooks as a low-cost (not to mention underpowered) alternative to laptops, the netbook share of the laptop market could fall as much as 8 percent next year.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's a lot more than that. All the companies mentioned above will be focusing marketing and advertising dollars on tablets as they try to grab a piece of the action. It's hard to see netbooks cutting through the noise.

Of course, computer manufacturers really don't care what they sell, as long as it sells. If it's netbooks, fine. If it's tablets, that's swell. And if it's the next thing after those...well, when that time comes, you'll be able to find some real bargains on dust-covered tablets at Best Buy. So goes the world of consumer electronics.

Also see:

Notebooks are so 2009

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