Global shipments of the popular new category of mini-laptops, netbooks, will likely reach 8.02 million this year and then more than double in 2009, according to a report by Taiwan's Market Intelligence Center (MIC).

Netbooks are a new style of mobile PC that weigh less than 1kg, sport 7in to 10in LCD screens, carry long-lasting batteries and connect wirelessly to the internet. They generally cost far less than the average laptop as well, between $199 to $599.

The number of netbooks shipped in 2009 could grow to as high as 18.3 million units, the MIC said. MIC is a publicly funded market researcher.

Taiwanese companies are at the heart of the netbook movement. Asus launched the first Eee PC commercial mini-laptop last year and has followed up this year with several new versions of the product. Other Taiwanese companies have recently followed Asustek into the netbook market, including Acer with the Aspire one, MSI Wind, and Giga-byte Technology's M912.

HP, the world's largest PC vendor, and Dell have also got in on the act. HP launched the Mini-Note earlier this year, and Dell plans to launch the E sometime in the near future.

Most of these netbooks have just recently hit markets, or will soon. The introduction of so many new netbooks at the same time should lead to price competition, which will be good for consumers, said Chris Wei, an analyst at MIC, in the report.

Last month, Asustek CEO Jerry Shen predicted Eee PC shipments could reach 10 million next year, doubling a forecast 5 million this year. Acer executives predicted shipments of 5 million to 7 million Aspire ones this year and 15 million to 20 million next year.