Netbooks: Unhappy Returns?

As anyone who peruses computer stores knows, netbooks are proliferating at unprecedented rates. Consumers are taken the portability of the half-pint PCs (the typical reaction is “they’re so cute,” one salesman derisively shared with me), not to mention the price tags – often under $300. In my own completely unscientific survey, 30% or more of the PCs on display in traditional PC retail outlets are now flavors of netbooks.

The data support the anecdotal evidence. Worldwide netbooks shipments are expected snare a 17.2% share of the overall notebook PC market in 2009, according to a new research report.

But not so fast. The salespersons I spoke with noted lots of problems with notebooks. The return rates run as high as 40%, one said, citing consumer complaints about the lack of functionality. Computer Weekly editors recently took on the negative side to the phenomenon as well.

Netbooks serve a function – namely surfing and simple word processing. But they are not computers in the full-fledged sense. The idea, as noted by Computer Weekly, that business are starting to implement netbooks is a scary proposition for those who value quality and performance over price.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow