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Netbooks Will Drive Future Uptake of Mobile Broadband Services

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Increased sales of netbooks over the next three to five years will result in higher demand for mobile broadband services, driven by the emerging trend of bundling the low end computers with mobile data services from specific network operators, according to the latest report by Pyramid Research.

Netbooks are just beginning to gain market traction; about 13 million were sold worldwide in 2008, with 10 million of those sales coming in the second half of the year, global economic crisis notwithstanding, notes Cristiano Laux, Manager of Consulting at Pyramid Research and coauthor of the report. "Bundles of these machines with Internet access are set to become a bread-and-butter offering for operators in developed and emerging markets alike, exceeding sales of notebook computers in the operator channel by 2010," says Laux.

While many operators are already supporting the business case for netbook bundles, OEMs are not happy about the downward pressure on laptop prices and the cannibalization that netbooks may have on the sales of high-end notebooks. "For now, they have agreed to live with the threat, fearing that without netbooks, the recession would hit computer sales even more than it has done already," Laux says.

Pyramid recommends that OEMs and broadband operators do what they can to support netbook sales.

"There is growing evidence that netbooks are catching on with the under-21 crowd; if that trend develops, the adoption rate for netbooks could accelerate even more, which means these cheap and approachable devices could have a huge impact on how network operators make money off their services," explains Laux. Netbooks will also help accelerate mobile broadband adoption among low-income customers and in emerging markets. "In the lower-income countries of Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, most of the incremental impact from netbook sales will be seen only when the price of mobile PCs declines below $350, but this is expected to happen in late 2009, with mass-market shipments picking up during 2010," he says.

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