Netbook or Notebook? Many Consumers Don't Know the Difference

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Sure, netbooks are portable and convenient. But plenty of consumers still don't realize there is a difference between traditional laptops and netbooks--and some are ultimately disappointed by the performance of their systems. Traditional notebooks offer better performing processors, more applications and the full computer experience.

The target market for the current generation of netbooks is largely confused about how the new devices differ in functionality from traditional laptop computers.  And that makes for a large set of unsatisfied customers.

That’s according to a new report from NDP Group, a market research company, that further shows that many consumers who purchased a netbook—60 percent—think that netbooks and laptops can do the same things.

But that is not the case. While smaller and more portable than standard laptop, or notebook computers, netbooks use less powerful processors, run lighter-weight operating systems and just can’t handle all the applications that a fully powered notebook computer can.

And that’s leading to some dissatisfaction among consumers who feel like they didn’t get what they paid for. The NPD Group report found that only 58 percent of consumers who bought a netbook instead of a laptop said they were very satisfied with their purchase, compared with 70 percent of consumers who had planned on buying a netbook all along.

Among 18- to 24-year-olds, a major demographic targeted by netbook makers, 65 percent said they expected better performance from their netbooks. Only 27 percent in this age group said that their netbooks performed better than expected.

NPD Group also notes that netbook manufacturers have focused on the devices’ portability to market them to consumers, and 60 percent of consumers cite portability as a main reason why they bought a netbook.  However, NDP Group notes, 60 percent of buyers said they never took their netbooks out of the house again once they got them home.
"We need to make sure consumers are buying a PC intended for what they plan to do with it," says Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, in a prepared statement. "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," he adds. "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."

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com