May 22, 2009
The cutesy mini-laptops know as "netbooks" are becoming one of the elements set to drive up mobile broadband usage up in the coming years.
A new report from Pyramid Research , called "Mobile Broadband for the Masses: The Case for Bundled Netbooks," finds that Webpads are just starting to hit a growth spurt, despite the economic crisis. About 13 million were sold worldwide in 2008, with 10 million of those sales coming in the second half of the year, notes report co-author Cristiano Laux. (See Pyramid: Netbooks Are Hot.)
Pyramid believes the trend will continue and is recommending that operators do what they can to support netbook sales. "There is growing evidence that netbooks are catching on with the under-21 crowd; if that trend develops, the adoption rate for netbooks could accelerate even more, which means these cheap and approachable devices could have a huge impact on how network operators make money off their services," Laux adds.
The relatively inexpensive nature of these small laptops also makes them appealing in "lower-income countries" in the Asia/Pacific region, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Pyramid believes that netbooks will hit "mass-market shipments" in 2010 as the average price of the mobile PCs falls below $350.
Taken in conjunction with recent research from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), it's easy to see how the advent of more netbooks on cellular and mobile broadband networks could affect carrier data revenues in a positive fashion. A single high-end smartphone generates more data traffic than 30 basic-feature cellphones, while a laptop aircard generates more data traffic than 450 basic-feature cellphones, Cisco revealed recently. (See Cisco: Video to Drive Mobile Data Explosion.)In a world of collapsing device categories, netbooks sit between a full-featured laptop and a higher-end PDA or Web tablet, so it is reasonable to expect that these gadgets will generate a considerable amount of data traffic on a network.
Certainly, carriers like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) have made no secret of their interest in subsidizing netbooks with a monthly data plan. (See Netbook Realities.) The operator is now offering netbooks priced between $50 and $250 to users that sign on for a two-year 3G data contract.
Meanwhile, vendors like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) are also rumored to be getting into netbooks. The iPhone maker is said to be working on a wee netbook of its own.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung
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