updated 03:10 pm EST, Tue February 16, 2010
More than half view netbooks as companions only
Over half of users don't consider a netbook a true portable, according to a new PriceGrabber study (PDF). About 55 percent believe that only a full-size notebook can work as a primary system, and a roughly similar 63 percent see a netbook only as a extra device for carrying on the road. Only 14 percent would actually consider one of the under-11-inch systems as a main computer.
Most of the objections (54 percent) stem from the overly small design, while half object equally to the lack of an optical drive and the low storage. Only a relative minority actually complain about overall performance (38 percent) or specific issues like media playback (26 percent) as well as games or HD video (16 percent).
Even so, the study still shows netbooks having a significant impact on sales. The average price of a portable has dropped about 20 percent year-over-year to just $645, or half of what it was three years earlier. They may also be setting expectations for price: although 52 percent spent $750 or more the last time they bought a computer, only 35 percent plan to do the same the next time they purchase.
About 15 percent of those talked to own a netbook and primarily use it for browsing or e-mailing. ASUS' well-known Eee PC 1005HA is the top-selling netbook at PriceGrabber and owes much of its success to its $279 price tag; the Toshiba NB205 and Dell Mini 10v are close behind with $342 and $349 prices. Acer's Aspire One D250, Lenovo's IdeaPad S10 as well as Samsung's N120 and Go help fill out the charts in addition to other Eee PCs.
The figures potentially play well into the hands of companies like Apple, which is one of the few holdouts refusing to produce netbooks. Average prices for MacBooks are higher even than 2006 levels, and its tablet theoretically addresses their core needs while addressing complaints about size. However, the lack of significant storage and a significant amount of productivity apps are possible drawbacks, as are prices that will largely be above the average price of a full PC.