While the slowing global economy is proving disastrous for many in the tech sector, there's one corner of the market which is enjoying a bit of a boom: netbooks.

According to figures from DisplaySearch's rather awkwardly named Quarterly Notebook PC Shipment and Forecast Report – via CNet – sales of the diminutive little devices are looking set to grow a full 65 percent over the course of the year compared to 2008's figures. This contrasts with traditional, full-size notebooks which are pegged to ship just three percent more than last year.

While the netbook has a long way to go before it's a true risk to the notebook market, the figures make convincing reading: if sales proceed as predicted, netbooks will make up a not-inconsiderable twenty percent of the total notebook/netbook/tablet/ultraportable market by the end of the year.

While the devices themselves can be considered a massive success for their creators – with all the major manufacturers bar Apple having made their own version, usually based around Intel's low-power Atom processor – the sales are causing some in the industry to wince in pain. There's no denying that many are deciding that they can do without a desktop replacement luggable and instead purchasing a netbook for a fraction of the price – meaning that revenue is down even while total shipments are up, as consumers opt for the less expensive solution for their portable computing needs.

While DisplaySearch claims that 2009 will be the year of the netbook, it doesn't think the phenomenon will last: pinning much of the success of the low-cost devices on the current credit crunch and consumer's desires to spend less until the financial markets are more stable, the company is predicting a return to full-size notebooks once people feel confident to spend the extra money. Whether this means that devices like the Eee PC 1004DN – which add an optical drive to attempt to bridge the gap between netbook and notebook – will be the future, or whether people will really give up the portability that the netbook form factor offers so easily remains to be seen.

Do you see netbooks going from strength to strength, or is the current craze nothing more than a fad as consumers look to save money on their PC purchases? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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