This year has seen some interesting developments in the mobile PC market.
Mobile PCs remained the fastest growing IT product from January to July 2008,
compared to the same period in 2007,
with sales up 54 per cent by unit.
This growth is predominantly in the retail sector as free and subsidised mobile PC offerings tempt the consumer and are linked with long-term broadband contracts.
In the business sector, the mobile PC is not the fastest growing IT product, although it remains one of the leading IT products in terms of market size by unit and value. Nevertheless, the market has still shown an impressive growth rate, having leapt by 23 per cent in terms of units sold so far in the year to July 2008. Sales of other IT products such as power management and storage are growing even faster.
Many industry terms describe the fashionable mini-laptop you might call them net-books, or web-books. A net-book is a low-cost, small form factor laptop, usually with a screen less than 10in wide.
Many are marketed as being designed for browsing the web on the go and only aspire to offer the most basic of PC functions. But how are net-books affecting the mobile PC market? Screen size is an important factor. Many early net-book models featured a 7in screen, but a number of updated models and new entrants to the market have a 8.9in screen.
In January 2008, just 1.1 per cent of laptops sold had a screen size of less than 10in. In July, 7.7 per cent of laptops sold via the business channels had a screen of less than 10in, with most being in the 8in to 10in category.
One reason behind this increase is the number of models available. January 2008 saw 36 different models on the market, but by July, this had more than doubled to 84 as more vendors joined the party. The models available vary from the basic net-books priced at about £200 each through to high-tech tablets exceeding £900.
It should be noted that all growth in this sector is coming from the lower price points. The mobile PC market has seen interesting developments in pre-installed operating systems thanks to the net-book.
The benefits of free open-source operating systems with their smaller processing demands and storage footprint over established proprietary alternatives have been marked.
A lack of open source software licensing allowed manufacturers to pass on significant cost savings to the consumer.
As a secondary result, 46 per cent of mobile PCs in the sub-10in category are being sold with pre-installed open-source operating systems, but that only amounts to two per cent of the mobile PC market.
Yet if the net-book revolution continues, its impact will undoubtedly reach far beyond the PC hardware market. Net-books may well become a Trojan horse to spur the open-source movement into the consumer software sphere.
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