Screens still growing on mini-notebooks and netbooks

Growth could be stunted by Microsoft's limitations for Windows 7

Netbook sales keep growing, as do the sizes of their displays.

Of the tiny laptops available today, eight out of 10 have LCD screens between 10 inches and 11.6 inches in size, according to an analysis published Monday by the blog, UMPC Portal. That is up from seven out of 10 laptops four months earlier, according to UMPC's research.

Screens between the narrow band of 10 inches and 10.2-inches dominated, available on 61% of all notebooks under 12 inches in size, according to data in the German/Austrian price comparison engine, Geizhals.at that was first reported by UMPC Portal. That includes both smaller notebooks as well as netbooks, which tend to use Intel Corp.'s Atom CPU and lack components such as DVD drives.

The popularity of 10-inch and 10.2-inch screens falls in line with predictions by iSuppli Corp., which expects 10-inch to 10.9-inch screens to make up 55% of the netbook market this year.

Larger screen sizes, such as 11.1 inch or 11.6-inch models, are more expensive and are produced by fewer vendors, according to iSuppli.

Nevertheless, about one in five of all models sported screens between 10.4 inches and 11.9 inches in size.

Those computers, which mostly run Windows XP today, would run afoul of Microsoft's attempts to segment the laptop market. The software maker intends to restrict availability of the less-expensive Starter Edition of Windows 7 to netbooks that, among other limitations, have screens no larger than 10.2-inches in size.

Meanwhile, the 7-inch screen, which shipped on the original netbook, Asustek Inc.'s Eee 701 almost two years ago, is nearly extinct. Only four out of 280 models are available with that size of screen. Altogether, less than 4% of models have screens 7-inches or smaller.

Geizhal's statistics include both netbooks running Intel's Atom processor as well as mini-laptops sporting more powerful single and dual-core CPUs from Intel or AMD Inc. The 8.9-inch screen, which as recently as last year was the favored form factor, made up only 10% of models in Geizhal's database.

The percentage of mini-notebook models running Linux instead of Windows remained steady at 8.5%, according to UMPC Portal, or about one in 12.

That practically mirrors statistics earlier this year that broke down down actual shipments of Windows versus Linux netbooks.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld (US)

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