It is estimated that almost thirty times more netbooks were sold in 2008 (11.4 million, 70% of which were in Europe) than in 2007 (400,000). For 2009, sales are expected to jump to 35 million, rising to an estimated 139 million in 2013.
Well, I think we can now discount that 2013 forecast.
The thing about netbooks is that they’re primarily for people who want something lighter than a notebook to tote with them.
That’s actually not a very big percentage of the computing population.
Today, a good smartphone — iOS, Android, webOS — can do many things that a netbook can. The sole netbook advantage is legacy Windows OS and file compatibility.
But a smartphone is really made for on-the-go use.
A tablet is best for at-home leisure use.
And that’s why tablets are bound to have a steeper and faster sales trajectory than netbooks ever did.
People don’t want to sit at home hunched over a tiny keyboard and screen. That’s a sacrifice they’ll make for traveling.
A tablet has an intimacy a netbook can never match. And most importantly, it can be used while stretched out in bed or on a sofa far more conveniently than an L-shaped screen/keyboard netbook. That can’t be done with any desktop computer.
It’s not surprising that Apple has sold fifteen million iPads.
What’s surprising is everyone thinking iPad has cornered the market and won.
Fifteen million iPads sold isn’t even ten percent of the potential market. It’s perhaps five per cent, if not less.
After Asus pioneered the netbook category, others jumped in, smelling money.
The same thing is happening with tablets.
Except all of the ones worth buying have generally been priced higher than an iPad and offer less.
Motorola just introduced its Xoom tablet. And they’re out of their mind if they think it’ll sell big at a whopping $800 price tag.
So this leaves only one company capable of taking on Apple and providing a realistic alternative to the iPad: HP/Palm.
Apple must have had a great laugh over HP buying Palm for over a billion dollars. I doubt it cost Apple anywhere near a billion dollars to create OS X and then spin it off to iOS.
But HP understood what the Android camp doesn’t. The best user experience comes from a consistent and reliable platform that doesn’t disappoint people. That’s what Apple can deliver with the iPad.
Android can’t do that and probably won’t be able to for at least two years. There are too many 1.x and 2.x devices out there to get out of the way before everyone is on the same Android version page.
So that leaves HP/Palm as the only iPad competitor that can meet Apple on its own turf: an operating system that won’t be fragmented, that will be updated to keep people on the same page, and provide a user experience that is consistent across hardware types.
The stakes are large. Hundreds of millions of tablets is the potential market. Given the way Apple has abused its power, we need a good alternative.
I hope that’s what HP/Palm will offer on February 9th.