Appetite for Netbooks Surging, Survey Says

Almost a quarter of potential PC buyers are looking seriously at getting a netbook, according to the results of a market research study released Wednesday, as recession-hit Americans shift their PC lust toward cheaper options.

According to ChangeWave Research's April survey of 3,231 U.S. consumers, 23% of respondents who plan to buy a computer in the next three months expect to purchase a netbook.

That is up from 18% in February, and 14% in January.

"Since we first reported higher consumer interest in the more affordable mini-laptops, overall netbook demand has skyrocketed," ChangeWave said in a release.

Such predictions could help companies such as netbook market leader Acer Inc. The third-leading PC maker sold 5 million Aspire One netbooks last year, edging out trailblazer Asustek Computer Inc. Acer expects to sell between 10 million and 12 million netbooks overall in 2009.

Besides being more wallet-friendly than other computers, netbooks are becoming mainstream after strong Christmas sales. More models are appearing, too, that sport beefed-up specs such as nearly laptop-sized screens and keyboards, high-definition video and even DVD drives.

Whatever the reason, the interest in netbooks is helping to boost the low demand for computers overall. Only 12% of those surveyed said they were planning to buy a computer in the next three months, with 8% interested in notebooks or netbooks, and 4% interested in buying a desktop PC, according to ChangeWave.

The 8% figure for those interested in buying a mobile PC is the "first uptick" in demand in 17 months, according to ChangeWave.

Increased notebook demand could mean good news for Apple Inc., whose market share has been slipping, according to ChangeWave, partly because it does not offer a cheaper option such as a netbook.

Most of Apple's hardware sales come from Mac notebooks, not desktops.

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