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Tablets? Pah! Netbooks still selling well, says analyst...

...while quietly cutting its netbook sales forecast

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Rumours of the death of netbook are greatly exaggerated, it has been claimed by one market watcher after it calculates that netbooks will have outsold the iPad and other such tablets almost 4:1 by the end of 2010.

Some 43m netbooks will have been shipped by the time the year is up, but only 11m tablets, ABI Research said today.

That's still good growth for the netbook, it said, even if not as meteoric a rise as the category has experienced in the past.

ABI didn't say today how many netbooks shipped in 2009, but earlier this year it put the total at 36.3m. That's year-on-year growth of just under 19 per cent.

Of course, what ABI also didn't mention today is the fact that only last May it forecast that some 58m netbooks would ship this year - for an annual growth rate of 60 per cent.

Netbooks may be still be selling well, but that big reduction in the number of them expected to ship this year shows just how much the tablet is eating into the netbook sales.

Will they continue to do so? Next year will reveal all. More tablets are on their way, increasing consumer choice and reducing prices through competition, and that's almost certain to hinder sales of netbooks - at least as we've known them to date.

But as netbooks themselves become more powerful - thanks to technology like Intel's dual-core Atom N455 processor and Nvidia's Ion 2 graphics - we think they're going to pose a threat not to tablets but to 13in notebooks.

This would well explain Apple's rumoured plan to shrink the MacBook Air from a 13.3in device to an 11.6in one, if it's actually true.

So tablets will replace the old, small, cheap computer devices, while netbooks evolve into sub-notebooks - a role plenty of netbook users are already putting their devices to, if the anecdotal evidence of Register and Reg Hardware readers is anything to go by. ®

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