Acer tops Asus in fast-growing netbook market

But DisplaySearch lowers forecasts for overall notebook market

The market for netbooks, small notebook PCs with even tinier prices, exploded in the third quarter of this year, according to market researcher DisplaySearch, as vendors aimed their wares at students during the back-to-school season.

The global market for netbooks, also known as mini-notebooks, was 5.61 million in the third quarter, up 160 percent from the second quarter, according to a statement Tuesday from DisplaySearch, the research firm.

Acer displaced ASUSTeK Computer (Asus) from the top Netbook spot for the first time during the quarter, taking 38.3 percent of the market versus Asus' 30.3 percent share.

DisplaySearch expects sales of netbooks, which are lighter-weight, lower-powered and generally cheaper than regular notebook PCs, to hit 14 million by the end of the year. That's a sharp rise from 2007, when just 1 million were sold.

"Worldwide demand for these products is forecast to grow rapidly over the next few years, with demand from a variety of sources, including early adopters, consumer and enterprise PC customers seeking a smaller or secondary notebook PC, as well as new PC customers in emerging markets," John F. Jacobs wrote in the report. "We expect the mini-note PC market to settle at approximately 16% share of the notebook PC market by 2011."

Like Gartner, DisplaySearch sees Netbooks as the one bright spot in the overall laptop PC market, which has shown signs of slipping.

DisplaySearch is revising down its growth forecasts for this year and 2009 due to "the challenging economic climate. Even enterprises that are maintaining or growing are likely to stretch their PC replacement cycles out as long as possible," Jacobs wrote.

In the overall laptop market, HP leads with 19.7 percent share, followed by Acer with 17.1 percent. Acer also sells notebook PCs under the Gateway and Packard Bell brands. Its sales were up 65 percent year-over-year.

Dell was third with 13 percent of the overall notebook market, followed by Toshiba and Asus, each with 8.6 percent of the market. Apple, which does not sell netbooks but has seen strong laptop sales growth in North America, ranked 7th worldwide in notebooks, with a 4.1 percent share. Sales were up 24 percent year-over-year, and some analysts have speculated that Apple will release its own netbook in 2009.

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