Netbooks Are Changing Consumer Expectations

A new survey by PriceGrabber.com suggests netbooks have set new expected price points for computer purchases, an outcome many suppliers likely feared would be the case.

The percentage of online consumers who personally own a netbook has increased from 10 percent last year to 15 percent early in 2010. Moreover, 11 percent of consumers plan to purchase a netbook in 2010.

The disparity between the dollar amount consumers are willing to pay for their next device compared to the amount they paid for their last device is evident. About 65 percent of consumers say the maximum amount they plan to spend on their next computing device is $750, even though 52 percent of online consumers spent more than $750 on their last device.

The average price of products in the PriceGrabber.com laptop category dropped to $645 in December 2009, from $808 in December 2008. This suggests a 20 percent decrease in average price.

Netbooks are more of a complement than a replacement for laptops, though. Some 55 percent of consumers do not see a netbook as a feasible replacement for a laptop. Additionally, 63 percent indicate that a netbook is best described as an additional device while on the go, not a substitute for a notebook or desktop PC.

The largest age group of netbook owners has shifted from 35 to 54 years to 45 to 64 years over the past year, the survey suggests.

In January 2009, 53 percent of netbook owners were between the ages of 35 and 54 as compared to only 31 percent one year later. In January 2010, 55 percent of netbook owners fall within 45 to 64 years of age as compared to 43 percent last year.

Of those consumers who indicate personally owning a netbook, 86 percent also own a laptop and 73 percent also own a desktop. More netbook owners indicated also owning laptops and desktops last year.

The survey suggests there is an opportunity for netbooks to cannibalize other products, though. In fact, 72 percent of consumers see a laptop as a feasible replacement for a desktop, 45 percent of consumers see a netbook as a feasible replacement for a laptop, and 27 percent of consumers see a netbook as a feasible replacement for a smartphone.

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