ABI: 11% View Netbooks as Primary Devices

Posted on 30 January 2009 by

ABI surveyed 1000 people about netbooks. According to their results, only 79% see them as a secondary computer. 11% see them as a primary computer proving that there is a significant overlap an direct impact on notebook sales. No surprise really.

The results are not good news for laptop and netbook manufacturers in general, despite the 79% that are buying a netbooks as a second device. Here are some thoughts from the top of my head.

  • Any survey done at the moment is dealing with early-curve consumers that are highly likely to buy a second device. In one year the figures might be worse purely based on the change of customer type (although it will be hard to do this survey in the mainstream market as many consumers may not even know they’ve bought a netbook)
  • Even if people buy a netbook as a secondary device, it will change their purchasing rhythm pushing the purchase of a replacement notebook further out. In some cases the netbook may satisfy the customer 100% and the next notebook purchase may never happen.
  • As netbooks move to bigger screens, they pull prices of normal laptops down in order to compete on perceived value.

My feeling is that the netbook effect is going to hit manufacturers very hard in the next 3 years. Netbooks aren’t going away though so they will need to find a way to cope with it. This means stripping out niche products, reducing quality and implementing lots of tricky marketing.

More thoughts

ABI Research Survey: 79% of Respondents View Netbooks as “Secondary” Devices | Press Release | ABI Research.

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13 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    Posted a new article: ABI: 11% View Netbooks as Primary Devices http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=5411

  2. John says:

    For me personally, I don’t see owning both a netbook and a notebook/laptop. They cover the same niche for me: mobile computing, bigger than a pocketable.

    But, where a laptop _can_ be a desktop replacement, I don’t see a netbook in that role. A netbook, for me, is a thin-client/web-top type device where little if any data is stored on the device. Great examples would be an android based netbook, or the instant-on bios OSes that are coming out for netbooks. The advantage of having Windows and/or Linux on a netbook is that you can work with it off-line … but for me, I would still plan/expect to sync all of my data back to a “mother ship”, which would be my desktop computer most likely. So while a netbook might not be a true thin-client, it would still not be a primary repository of data for me, and thus not a replacement for my desktop computer.

    netbook: mobile only, still want/need a desktop
    laptop: mobile or desktop

    So, netbooks, for me, wont ever compete with desktop computers. And whether or not a netbook competes with a laptop depends on whether the consumer wants a desktop replacement.

    Of course, as netbooks get more powerful (not larger, more powerful), I can see that possibly changing. A 9″ display convertible tablet netbook that has outstanding battery, reasonable storage, memory, and better CPU, with display options that rival a desktop … that might get it into a position where it could be “docked” (with a formal docking station, or not) with a big monitor, keyboard, and mouse for use as a desktop replacement. I don’t see that day coming for a few years, though. But it wouldn’t be the same type of desktop replacement as a 17″+ laptop.

    In that case, I’d probably still have a home media/data/services server, and/or maybe a high-end gaming machine. But, that type of powerful-netbook could otherwise replace my desktop as my primary “user interface”. But I still wouldn’t plan on it being my primary data store. That would continue to be one of my two distinctions between a netbook and laptop: netbooks are smaller than laptops, and tend to be more “thin-client-ish” in their usage patterns, if not their actual OS.

  3. Techni says:

    I don’t know, my boss has a 1.6 GHz dual core netbook with a gig of RAM and a 64 GB SSD. That’s pretty damned good for something so small. Almost as powerful as the PC I bought last christmas

  4. TapFrame says:

    i would be willing to bet that 11% is much much higher in reality & this survey is either seriously skewed or flawed. Netbooks sale in droves to the youth market, college age & young kids (by their parents). as netbooks continue to thrive in developing countries the primary number will only increase.

    this whole idea of a “second” computer is primarily clever marketing by Intel & friends which has convinced the public how to perceive netbooks. but as people actually buy them & USE them then start to see their usage habits change (using PC on the couch/bed not a desk, can run everything their desktop can) the mindset will change as well.

  5. EC says:

    I’d like to point out a couple of things:

    “…attitudes to netbooks and mobile Internet devices (MIDs).”

    MIDs are also included in their survey(s)! :)

    “In November, 2008, ABI Research conducted an online study among adult US consumers concerning their interest in and expectations of a number of consumer technology products, including netbooks and mobile Internet devices (MIDs). ”

    I do have to raise the question how objective such numbers then could be against the general public, since the people taking this survey already were ONLINE and it’s only “adult US consumers”. Not to be all too critical but wouldn’t it be asking on this webpage how many have used/like UMPCs? :)

  6. Levi Littvay says:

    I have a suspicion that this survey was conducted in the US (maybe Western Europe). I am from Eastern Europe, I teach at a University with a highly diverse Eastern European student body. Netbooks are popping up left and right, especially among students I have never seen with a laptop before. I suspect 90-95% of these are primary devices. The ones I specifically talked to (2, not a sufficiently large or representative sample) both use their MSI Winds as a primary computer (and are really happy with them). Note that these people use the web, web based e-mail, listen to musc, maybe watch a video or two, use a word processor/office quite and maybe some basic statistical application for very basic statistical procedures. None of this goes past the capabilities of a netbook.

  7. EC says:

    Yes it’s in the US that’s clearly indicated.

    This is good though as it’s closer to the demographic the devices were developed for in the first place, areas where it has up to now been quite hard to buy (due to price) such devices.

    Yes you can do just about anything with the netbooks really and with a little “help” (read modifications) you can do just about anything!

    köszönöm :)

  8. fab says:

    don’t underestimate netbooks! how many people do actually just surf and chat, emails and facebook. watch a movie and see the pictures of their last holidays. for that you don’t need a high performance notebook.

    that is why netbooks are so popular, they are small and don’t bother being around, they are light, cheap and do the above mentioned. i asked so many people if they would consider buying a netbook, first they said they don’t know what that is, but they would prefer an EEE PC!!

    so you see, WE in here know way more than the majority out there. see it from a consumers point of view: oh, 349 USD for that small laptop, wow, not bad, ehm, can i go to facebook and see some movies? sure, alright, i’ll get one, why paying 1400 USD for the other laptop then…

  9. EC says:

    Don’t get me wrong I’m not at all under estimating the market for the Netbooks, it will be huge just like the article is indicating jeopardizing the “life” of the laptops as we know it.

    The only thing I was questioning is the figures, it’s not very fair to ask people already online as such what laptop/netbook they would buy is my point :)

    I will quote you (and state so to avoid any confusion) now:

    “i asked so many people if they would consider buying a netbook, first they said they don’t know what that is, but they would prefer an EEE PC!!
    so you see, WE in here know way more than the majority out there. see it from a consumers point of view: oh, 349 USD for that small laptop, wow, not bad, ehm, can i go to facebook and see some movies? sure, alright, i’ll get one, why paying 1400 USD for the other laptop then…”

    Exactly that’s just my point we on here might know what’s out there and what “tool” is appropriate for what, but you wouldn’t get an accurate statistics of the general public from a poll on here, that being the point :)

    Yes netbooks are the future!

  10. JC says:

    I don’t think it’s higher than 11% in reality because netbooks haven’t been around for very long. Also, right now, there may be some selection bias in that, in order to answer the question, you have to recognize the term “netbook”. Obviously, everyone who reads this site does, but this is not a typical collection of people. For one thing, this is a group that thinks nothing of hacking the devices they’ve bought. That’s uncommon.

    Ultimately, of course, it boils down to your computational demands and which notebooks you’re talking about. The term “notebook” encompasses an absurdly wide variety of products. Someone who wants or needs a 17″ desktop replacement laptop will never consider a netbook as a primary notebook. And if you have to lug that thing around anyway, I don’t know if you’d buy a netbook as a secondary notebook either. The same goes for someone whose mobile computational demands exceed what a netbook can provide.

    (Yes, I ‘ve heard the spiel. A netbook can do anything a more conventional notebook can do. However, there is the issue of ease and speed. A conventional notebook will be able to do some things faster and easier at the cost of being thicker and heavier. This is not intrinsically a horrible trade off. If the netbook doesn’t fit in any more storage locations than the notebook, you don’t mind carrying an additional two pounds of equipment, and you need to do those things often, it may even be a good trade off.)

    For everyone else, of course, a low powered laptop may do everything that they will ever want to do with a laptop. For them, whether it’s a primary or secondary device, it’s a good idea. (e.g., if you really don’t do any more than browse, email, and chat.) Why pay for computational power you’ll never use? You might as well get something easier to carry around.

    As netbooks move to bigger screens, I hope they maintain their weight advantage. Otherwise, what you have is a cheap laptop. $500 laptops have been around for a while. For all the talk of netbook affordability, their prices have been rising along with screen size. However, even at the $500 price point, having the choice of “heavier but computationally stronger” or “lighter but computationally weaker” is not a bad thing. But “same weight and computationally weaker”? Let’s hope they don’t go there.

  11. EC says:

    See now JC put my thoughts into words so much nicer, than I was able to :)

    His first paragraph covers my thought except we don’t really know if they used the term “netbook” exclusively or if they explained it too, nevertheless it was done online. Secondly even though I might question the accuracy of the % figure being an accurate representation or not I am maybe not so inclined to think it is smaller, if anything larger. I believe there are plenty of potential Netbook buyers that at this point do not spend time online (where the poll was done).

    On the desktop replacement, if one were able to show the people who have a desktop today how easy it is to plug in an USB keyboard & mouse and the keyboard who knows maybe they won’t need anything more? I tend to believe that the netbook performance is enough for vast majority of desktop users.

    Now a more accurate poll should ask what (using your words how “thick and heavy”) kind of operations the user needs to do. Bottom line I’d think the simple question “Do you multitask?” would reveal a lot on how someone uses their computer, I believe a good amount wouldn’t even know what that means in computer context.

    Also I agree that Netbooks should stay just that LIGHT, SMALL, CHEAP or else just like you said they aren’t a Netbook anymore!

  12. Vakeros says:

    This all brings us back to that most delicious idea of a modular PC.
    The core of the PC holds your SoC, Memory, small input – output, battery and connectors. You can them have a separate part which contains radios (use like a phone etc.) You can then dock these two together (seamlessly) and you have a UMPC. Put these into a docking station which connects you to mouse, keyboard, Optical drives, bigger storage and large screen (oh and maybe a cooling system as well to allow the CPU to ramp up its speed.) And then you don’t need to mess with Syncing or anything else.

  13. Al says:

    Netbooks sell as they have a touch type keyboard. UMPC’s to me need to add a jacket size form factor that still is long enough say 7″ to 7.5″ long so that a good touch type keyboard can be incorporated.

    I think Netbooks fill a couple of markets, ultra cheap consumers and partially satisfying those whom want something smaller to be mobile with a keyboard. I do think a 7.5″ x 4.25″ x 1″ UMPC with a touch type keyboard would be a great addition to the UMPC market.

    Since UMPC’s sell such small numbers it somehow does not seem right to include netbooks when they are to me the size of many sub notebooks and laptops; that does not seem ultra mobile anymore?

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