The Little Giant

Worldwide Mini-Notebook Shipments to Surpass 5 Million Units in 2008
by: Jerry Liao

Mini-notebooks are designed to be compact and mobile, for users to carry around, be productive even during mobile. They maybe small in size, small in appearance, smaill in components – but one thing is for sure, they are not small when it comes to their sales figures.

Mini-notebooks are an emerging category of mobile computing devices, with worldwide mini-notebook shipments on pace to reach 5.2 million units in 2008 and 8 million units in 2009, according to Gartner, Inc. The market is expected to experience strong growth, as there could be as many as 50 million mini-notebooks shipped in 2012.

Mini-notebooks are mobile computing devices with a screen size of 5 inches to 10 inches that run a full version of client operating system (OS), such as Windows XP or Linux. Mini-notebooks do not include microinformation devices (MIDs), which according to Gartner definitions are a separate product category and include mobile computing devices with a screen size of 3 inches to 5 inches.

“The demand for mini-notebooks will be driven by several factors: by their small form factor and small screen, their light weight, their price, their ease of use and their basic, but sufficient, PC functionality,” said Annette Jump, research director at Gartner. “Mini-notebooks are likely to attract a variety of users with different usage scenarios: content consumption, Internet browsing, e-mail, instant messaging (IM), keeping in touch with friends and family, storing and sharing pictures, and so on. Potential users are likely to include both first-time buyers seeking a low-cost introductory PC as well as experienced users seeking a low-cost second or third PC for themselves or a relative.”

Although mini-notebooks started as low-cost education PCs, since the end of 2007 the targeted audience has expanded from education to consumers in both mature and emerging markets and a few business buyers.

Gartner believes that the largest growth opportunities for mini-notebooks are in the consumer subcategory and that this segment will eventually account for about 70 percent of all mini notebooks. The main drivers for mini-notebook adoption will be market positioning, device price, availability of wireless connectivity and its costs as well as support from channel partners and retailers.

“Mini-notebooks create opportunities to reach some new PC buyers and expand within existing buyers across all regions,” said Ms. Jump. “Considering the majority of mini-notebooks will be sold to consumers, PC vendors will need to pay increasing attention to the design and ease of use of mini-notebooks. These will be two crucial factors in this segment.”

Gartner does not expect any major cannibalization of mobile PC shipments by mini-notebooks in 2008 and 2009, because there is a significant functionality and performance gap between notebooks and mini-notebooks. However, from 2010, mini-notebooks may start to cannibalize some low-end mobile PC volumes, and from 2011, they could significantly boost business PC shipments if their performance should increase substantially and they prove attractive to general business users.

Ms. Jump said that PC vendors should definitely be planning new revenue opportunities around mini-notebooks, but at the same time they should not stake their businesses on them. She advised vendors to regularly review and adjust their product positioning and channel strategies for each of their notebook subsegments, especially during the next 12 to 14 months as they search out mini-notebook opportunities.

“For consumer mini-notebooks to succeed, they need to be positioned differently than standard notebooks, and PC vendors will need to decide if the existing channels to market are appropriate and possibly look for new channels, such as telecom, gadget shops and so on,” Ms. Jump said. “PC vendors will have to convince retailers to take on those products, as they are still emerging products and potentially present some risk from an inventory point of view.”

As they all say, small is beautiful only if you think big. God Bless us all!

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