In 2010, netbook shipments are expected to reach 58 million, while a new element has been added to the mobile consumer electronics market equation: the media tablet, initially personified by the Apple iPad.

ABI Research has been asking “How will mobile CE markets react to the iPad so soon after the start of the netbook craze?

“We expect the netbook market to fragment according to different regional value propositions,” says principal analyst Jeff Orr.

“Functionality will be added to mainstream netbook products while at the same time an entry-level netbook solution will grow, with the aim of targeting some large emerging markets (including China and India) where PC penetration is still quite low.”

At the same time, ABI Research sees the pace of netbook market growth slowing to a CAGR of 23 percent, as media tablets start to steal some netbook thunder.

Netbooks vs iPad

In February 2009 ABI Research forecast that approximately 35 million netbooks would ship into world markets in the course of the year. That estimate was viewed in some quarters as unrealistically high. However, the final 2009 shipment numbers - 36.3 million netbooks shipped - have confirmed that the forecast was perhaps a little conservative.

The firm’s new “Netbooks, MIDs, Media Tablets, and Mobile CE Market Data” conservatively forecasts media tablet sales of about eight million in 2010.

“Apple’s claimed shipments of one million iPads in the first month are impressive starting from zero,” says Orr, “but even our total media tablet forecast falls far short of what anyone would call mass market adoption.”

While it was understood that Apple could put together a good consumer solution and take significant early market share, there are lots of opportunities for others; it’s a question of how they come to market: solo, as Apple has done, or in conjunction with network operator and distribution partners.

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