updated 12:30 pm EDT, Tue June 23, 2009
Netbook Buyers Unhappy
Despite the prominent sales spot for netbooks, many of those buying the mini PCs are not only unsatisfied with the experience but often have unrealistic expectations, an NPD study shows. About 60 percent of those who bought netbooks mistakenly assumed the systems would have the same features and performance as notebooks. Among college-age buyers, 65 percent expected the systems to run faster than they did, and only 27 percent were impressed by the relative speed.
The gap between perception and reality has led to a significant portion of buyers disliking their systems. Where 70 percent of those who had specifically set out to get a netbook were happy, that number fell to 58 percent for those who had opted to buy a netbook due to price or some other driving factor.
Researchers suspect that some of the dissatisfaction has its root in bad marketing and unrealistic assumptions about usage habits. Although 60 percent of the studied group had bought a netbook with the very small size as the prime concern, a similar amount admitted that their systems never actually leave the home.
The blame is chiefly laid on poor marketing that oversells the abilities of the systems as computer substitutes, which leads to disappointment when they discover that the systems are really companion PCs that don't have the power to serve as full notebook replacements. Most of these run Intel's Atom processor, which is fast enough to drive Windows XP but often lacks graphics performance for even modest 3D or HD video and often can't run creative editing apps or other strenuous tasks.
While most major PC builders have at least one netbook in their lineups, a handful have actively resisted the category partly due to the complaints raised in the study. Apple has criticized current netbooks for being too small and low quality and has separately said that many of these systems are too slow. Nonetheless, rumors have surfaced of Apple ordering 10-inch touchscreens that would be particularly suited to a netbook-sized device, whether a conventional computer with touch or else a pure tablet.