Many companies entered or pledged to enter the netbook market in the past 12 months including Asus, HP, Toshiba, Lenovo, Samsung, and Fujitsu Siemens. According to Gartner, by 2012, worldwide sales will have reached 50 million units.
The low price of netbooks emerging on the market has brought down the entry
price for consumers, broadening the
potential customer base considerably.
High-street retailers and independents can target their traditional business customers and new consumers, such as families with schoolchildren looking for a supplementary home PC.
The ever-expanding mobile workforce is another key target. Small is beautiful as far as mobile computing is concerned. The credit crunch may force companies to move to smaller offices and adopt remote working. Netbooks are low in price because they are light on features. They rely on USB ports, sub-11in screens and keyboards, and modest memory and CPU.
The type of software that would be offered as part of a bundle or for after-sale with a standard notebook or desktop PC will not be appropriate for a netbook. More often than not, it will be too large for the system resources.
If customers find they need to spend half as much again on essential Office
software than on the unit, it could destroy the sale.
By accessorising the netbook, the reseller stands a good chance of securing more sales and delivering greater satisfaction to the customer, who will go away with a unit that provides essential functionality.
The key is finding the right software, so resellers should talk to their distributors about alternatives that are available at a lower price and a smaller footprint, which run cost effectively and efficiently.
Downloadable solutions such as Open Office are free, but do not include
technical or other support, and retail packaged
products such as Star Office or ASI Ability Office, which may be compatible both in terms of files and user interface with Microsoft Office. Some of these products will become available on USB sticks because netbooks do not have optical drives.
This software delivery method should promote future netbook sales to
consumers because it enhances usability while
maintaining cost effectiveness. It also provides resellers with an additional peripheral they can offer and make margin on, by bundling with the sale or by offering them to the netbook after-market.
Preserving the cost-effective selling point of the netbook is crucial. So, as
well as Office software, there are many other low-cost but good value add-ons.
For instance, given the rise of mobile phone retailers as outlets for notebooks,
resellers should talk to their distributors to find a way of working with mobile
broadband providers to ramp up sales.
So, do not hope that these low-cost devices will go away. Think creatively and take your own share of this market.
David Hennell is group sales and development director at west Sussex-based alternative software provider and distributor Formjet.
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