Smartbook devices, which first appeared on the market in 2008, are set to ship 163 million units worldwide in 2015, according to ABI Research.
“Smartbook” is somewhat of a nebulous category, as it is not technically a product category or a brand. ABI Research defines a smartbook as low-powered device running a mobile operating system that is always connected, either via Wi-Fi or using cellular or mobile broadband. They are a subset of MIDs (mobile Internet devices) and netbooks, and address the same potential users, usage, pricing, and market needs. However, they don’t use x86 processors.
Here Come the Tablets
One of the biggest predicted changes to the smartbook market, beyond its explosive growth, is the increase in popularity of the MID/tablet format as compared to the clamshell format. Today, virtually all smartbooks sold are clamshell devices. However, by the end of this year, tablets should account for roughly one-third of shipment volume. Looking ahead to 2015, tablet devices will continue to account for roughly one-third of shipment volume. This means by 2015, approximately 54 million MID/table smartbooks will be ship worldwide, compared to roughly 109 million clamshell smartbooks.
Advice for Vendors
ABI advises smartbook vendors to recognize that the term “smartbook” does not resonate with most consumers. Therefore, they should avoid marketing smartbooks as a separate category, and instead use them to compete with laptops and smartphones. Vendors are also advised to focus on developing new smartbook form factors.
In addition, ABI recommends vendors concentrate on price to drive consumer adoption, keeping entry-level prices at $200 or less.
Mobile Device Popularity Surges
Based on impressive growth in the advanced mobile device market, smartbook vendors have a large number of potential customers who are currently using smartphones, 3G devices and other advanced mobile applications. Between December 2008 and December 2009, the percentage of US mobile phone subscribers with unlimited data plans increased from 16% to 21%, according to comScore. During the same period, smartphone ownership increased from 11% to 17%, while 3G phone ownership increased from 32% to 43%.