The mini-notebook market is set to rack up major sales according to Gartner with worldwide volumes of up to 50 million units by 2012.
A number of vendors including Acer, MSI, Hewlett-Packard and more recently Lenovo have entered the netbook market, pioneered by ASUS' EeePC launched in October 2007.
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Unit sales are forecast at 5.2m for this year, 8 million in 2009 and up to 50 million by the end of 2012 according to Gartner.
"Mini-notebooks create opportunities to reach some new PC buyers and expand within existing buyers across all regions," said Annette Jump, research director at Gartner.
Potential users are likely to be first time buyers in emerging markets and experienced users in more mature markets looking for a lightweight surfing or email device as the second or third PC in the home.
The largest growth opportunity for the technology comes from consumers said Gartner, eventually accounting for 70 per cent of sales, but it does not foresee netbook shipments cannibalising mobile PCs for several years yet.
"There is a significant functionality and performance gap between notebooks and mini-notebooks," said Gartner, but the gap could close from 2010 and if performance improves substantially by 2011, mini-notebooks could become a business tool.
Gartner recently said netbooks could drop in price to $100 (£50) in the next two years as component costs fall 10-15 per cent, although packaging, assembly costs and software prices would remain stable.
Analysts at iSuppli are far more bullish about the sales prospects for netbooks, forecasting 18.3 million unit shipments by 2012 with revenues standing at $291.2m.