Eee & 'disposable' rivals not set for blockbuster sales, say analysts

Research firm IDC have spotted the current trend for budget ultraportable notebooks, but unlike the rest of us aren't entirely convinced.  Despite vast sales of the ASUS Eee – and multiple rivals with new notebooks landing every week – IDC don't believe most mainstream customers will ever see the usually-Linux based devices as "proper" computers.  Instead, they describe them as merely additive: augmenting rather than replacing traditional laptops.

"Consumers have embraced the idea of the PC, particularly the portable PC, as a personal device rather than a shared household device.  This has led to the introduction of notebooks in an increasingly wide range of sizes and shapes, as well as more specialized PCs. Very low-cost, compact notebooks than can be carried around and provide quick and easy access to the Internet via Wi-Fi hot spots fills an important spot in this burgeoning market – the first disposable notebooks"  Bob O'Donnell, vice president, Clients and Displays IDC

The short interpretation is that IDC don't envisage a "blockbuster" situation.  While sales of the ultraportables are predicted to reach just under $3bn in 2012, they actually rate this as poor performance, because of the low average selling price and profit margin on each unit.  Instead the strength will be in education, with their prediction that one third of the education market will be satisfied by such devices by 2012, compared to 5-percent of the total consumer PC market.

It'd be interesting seeing how the manufacturers themselves respond to the report.  While it's in their best interest to stoke as much demand for the low-cost notebooks as possible, many of them also have more expensive traditional laptops to sell, commanding higher prices and more profit.  Asustek's rumored splitting off of the Eee brand to become a standalone business might be a sign that the market is reshuffling in order to remove some of the more obvious overlap between the top end budget machines and the entry-level normal notebooks.