Report: Consumers Confused By Netbooks

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Confusion about the difference between netbooks and notebooks could lead to customer dissatisfaction and impact how consumers perceive netbooks, according to a report by the NPD Group.

While consumers spend an average of $300 less for a netbook than a notebook, a significant number of those who purchased netbooks said that netbooks did not meet their expectations, according to NPD.

Netbook PCs, designed mainly for wireless access to the Internet, feature less powerful hardware than notebook PCs in order to reduce costs, with users typically running more Web-based applications than they might with notebook PCs.

The results of the survey by Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD are included in a new report entitled, "Netbooks II, A Closer Look."

In the introduction to the report, Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, wrote that the "cannibalization and price degradation of standard size notebooks are a very real threat for the success of netbooks."

About 25 percent of netbook buyers ended up purchasing their netbooks despite initial plans to buy a notebook PC, NPD found. And, because the average selling price of netbooks is about $300 less than notebook PCs, that resulted in a significant amount of lost revenue for the vendors.

NPD found that 60 percent of consumers who purchased a netbook instead of a notebook thought their netbooks would have the same functionality as notebooks.

Only 58 percent of consumers who bought a netbook instead of a notebook said they were very satisfied with their purchase, NPD found. This compares to a 70 percent satisfaction rate among consumers who planned on buying a netbook from the start.

Baker also wrote that confusion over the difference between netbooks and notebooks makes it important for manufacturers and retailers to be very careful about how they communicate the value proposition of netbooks.

"Too much emphasis on price, PC-like capabilities, and general features could easily convince consumers that the netbook is merely a notebook replacement. Not enough emphasis on mobility, portability and the real need for a high-quality, large-screen, additional specific-use PC could easily push the netbook into the toy category, driving consumers away," Baker wrote.

In a statement, Baker wrote it is important for vendors and resellers that consumers buy the right kind of portable PC.

"There is a serious risk of cannibalization in the notebook market that could cause a real threat to netbooks' success. Retailers and manufacturers can't put too much emphasis on PC-like capabilities and general features that could convince consumers that a netbook is a replacement for a notebook. Instead, they should be marketing mobility, portability and the need for a companion PC to ensure consumers know what they are buying and are more satisfied with their purchases."

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