Report: Netbook market grew 79% last year

Netbook shipments jumped 79 percent last year to 30.2 million units, according to research firm Strategy Analytics--and the market is poised to continue growing this year.

hp mini verizon wirelessThe research firm said North America and Western Europe propelled the market's growth. In the U.S., carriers including AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel have begun subsidizing netbooks (with the purchase of a two-year mobile data plan) and carrying the devices in their retail outlets. Thus, along with smartphones and data cards, netbooks with built-in wide area wireless have helped fuel mobile data traffic growth. The carriers have been selling netbooks for between $150 and $200 when paired with a two-year data plan contract.

According to Strategy Analytics, the top netbook vendors were Acer, Asus, HP, and Dell. "This category is poised for further growth in 2010, as chipset makers battle for dominance in the portable device segment," Strategy Analytics analyst Peter King said in a statement. "Intel, Qualcomm, Nvidia and others will continue to push new processors that promise to do more, while taking up less space and consuming less power."

In light of such growth, it's no surprise that the netbook market has become crowded. Late last year, the world's top handset maker Nokia entered the market with its Booklet 3G, which AT&T launched for $300 and a two-year contract. Apple is also aiming to upend the netbook market with its iPad tablet, which it will start selling in the coming months beginning at $500. At the iPad's unveiling, Apple CEO Steve Jobs disparaged netbooks as insufficient to do Web browsing, email, and handle photos, video and music. "Netbooks aren't better at anything," Jobs said. "They are just cheap laptops."

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