Netbooks Fuel Good PC Market News, Says IDC

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 10, 2008

Market research firm IDC has just produced the results of its global analysis of PC buying trends, and the overall news is good--with low-cost netbook portable systems making a significant contribution around the world. We've covered the netbook phenomenon widely. Significant numbers of these (often, though not always Linux-based) machines are moving, and changing usage habits. Even the title of the IDC report reflects their impact on the overall market: "PC Market Continues To Resist Economic Pressures With A Boost From Low Cost Portable PCs."  Here are the numbers, and why this trend is great for open source.

"Despite continuing economic concerns in both mature and emerging regions, recent shipment volume and increasing competition in the rapidly growing low end of the Portables market are expected to drive solid growth for the next few years," says the IDC report.

Western Europe saw growth in computer sales jump to 23 percent in the second quarter, up from 12 percent in 2007. Here's the key to that jump: "Sparked by the wide appeal of low-cost portables such as the ASUS Eee PC, Western Europe Consumer Portables grew 60 percent over 2Q07 and are expected to boost growth for the remainder of 2008." As we've covered before, Asus expects to sell more than 5 million of its Eee PC portables this year.

As you can see from IDC's table, shown below, portable systems overall are expected to make major contributions to overall computer sales over the next four years, I've been using a Linux-based Asus Eee PC ever since they showed up, and I continue to see them as great systems for keeping around the house hanging off the Wi-Fi network, for light mobile writing tasks, and for kids.

Netbooks are seeing significant price drops, as we covered yesterday, and they are also available at many retail outlets, including Circuit City and Target. One troubling trend is that many new netbooks are coming out with Windows XP instead of Linux. That's a trend that Microsoft has its eyes on, and netbooks are the only pocket of the market where it is allowing XP to continue to come pre-loaded on systems without extra fees.

Still, I think the market for Linux-based netbooks will stay strong for the next several years simply because they come loaded with tons of free, open source software. Who wants to buy a Windows netbook for $400 and pay up for expensive Microsoft applications? Free, open source applications are perfect for these devices, and will continue to reach many more people via the netbook phenomenon.